By Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
Panathinaikos FC continued their superb home record against Spanish sides with a hard-earned victory against Sevilla FC, thanks to a solitary goal from defender Loukas Vintra.
With new coach Alberto Malesani watching from the stands, Panathinaikos's caretaker manager Panagiotis Fylakouris opted for a 3-5-2 formation, in order to keep a close eye on the Sevilla attacking duo of Julio Baptista and Ariza Makukula. The visitors went with their usual 4-4-2 formation with the purpose of keeping a clean sheet.
Panathinaikos took control of proceedings from the start and went close as early as the fourth minute, when Theofanis Gekas's shot from the right was well saved by Sevilla goalkeeper Esteban Suárez. Sevilla had their first sight of goal three minutes later, however Jordi López's fine header went just wide of Mario Galinovic's right-hand post.
That was to be Sevilla's only worthwhile opportunity of the first half. By contrast, Panathinaikos were constantly pressing and, in the eleventh minute, Gekas missed a glorious one-on-one as his shot was blocked by Esteban.
The Greek team continued to dominate, their attacks coming mainly down the left-hand side through Markus Münch and Rudolf Skácel. That kept the usually pacy Daniel Alves subdued and prevented Sevilla from charging forward down the right.
In the 35th minute, Panathinaikos squandered a triple chance to take the lead. Gekas's initial shot was well saved by Esteban and the rebound from Michalis Konstantinou was charged down by the visiting defence. The ball then broke to Ezequiel González, but his header was cleared off the line to safety.
Sevilla began the second half with more speed and purpose, introducing Fernando Sales for López and Antoñito for Makukula, while new signing Adriano Correia started getting forward down the left flank, creating chances for both Baptista and himself.
In the 56th minute, Panathinaikos had to substitute inspirational captain Ioannis Goumas because of a groin injury, causing them to concede more ground and possession to Sevilla. Yet it was the hosts who broke the deadlock against the run of play. The goal came in the 76th minute when Vintra's long-range drive found the net.
From that moment, the game opened up with both sides looking dangerous in attack. Sevilla nearly equalised in the 81st minute when Aitor Ocio went close with a back-heel, then two minutes later Konstantinou's header from close range was instinctively saved by Esteban.
Panathinaikos survived a late scare when Fernando Sales's powerful long-range effort flew just wide in added time, but they held on to maintain their unbeaten record of three wins and four draws in seven home matches against Spanish opposition.