Ten-man Panionios NFC pulled off a stirring UEFA Cup first round first-leg victory to leave high-profile opponents Udinese Calcio with a mountain to climb in the return leg.
Three headers, one either side of the break from defender Panagiotis Giannopoulos and another from Travis Dodd, proved more than enough to beat a disappointing Udinese side who could only reply with a low Giampiero Pinzi effort before the home side's Alexandros Tziolis was sent off at the death.
Panionios started off well and forged the first effort through Lubomir Meszaros but he could only shoot over the top from distance. Uruguayan Juan Martín Parodi then went close for the home side with a curling free-kick that goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis did well to palm over the top and from the subsequent corner the keeper pulled off another tremendous save from a close-range header.
However, De Sanctis was unable to deny Panionios a 27th-minute lead. A deep cross from the left by Lubomir Meszaros found Travis unmarked at the back post and his downward header was helped in by the former Juventus FC shot-stopper. However, Udinese took less than 60 seconds to respond, levelling almost immediately with a low skidding effort from Pinzi after a clever dummy by Dino Fava.
Seconds before the break, Panagiotis Giannopoulos rose unmarked to head into the net from a Juan Martín Parodi corner and restore the home side's advantage and Panionios extended their lead still further just short of the hour mark. Giannopoulos converted his second header of the game with Parodi once again the provider, whipping in a left-wing cross that the Greek centre-back nodded in at the back post.
No way back
It was nearly a hat-trick for the former Kavala man as he went centimetres wide with an almost identical far-post header a minute later. But despite a series of substitutions there was no way back for Udinese and with Panionios forward Mário Breška causing the Italian defence problems, it always looked as if the home side could go even further ahead, even when Tziolis was sent off for two bookings in the closing stages.
The final whistle was blown to the sound of raucous celebrations from the Greek players and fans, who will now hold out great hope for progress into the group stage.