Olympiacos FC beat FC Metalist Kharkiv 1-0 to move a step closer to their first major quarter-final in 13 years.
Metalist have been the toast of the UEFA Europa League this term, scoring 23 goals in stylish fashion, but came up short against an Olympiacos side who have now won nine in a row without conceding. David Fuster made the difference in Kharkiv, earning Ernesto Valverde's side a narrow advantage ahead of next week's second leg in Athens. Metalist will be without Edmar for that game after he was shown a straight red card late on.
More composed, inventive and fearless, Metalist had initially appeared unabashed by their opponents' UEFA Champions League pedigree. Fluid in possession and intelligent out of it, the hosts may not have created their usual raft of openings, but it was one-way traffic nonetheless.
Wherever Taison lurks, danger lies; a surging run led to Sebastián Blanco's deflected shot, a searching cross resulted in Jonathan Cristaldo's header and an impudent pass created Fininho's rasping drive. Myron Markevich's side were not in top gear but they were at least knocking on the door; Olympiacos were merely trying to keep it closed.
It is no accident, though, that the Greek Super League leaders have been in such fine fettle. With the half-time words of Valverde still ringing in their ears, they took the lead when Marco Torsiglieri only partially cleared a Kevin Mirallas cross and Fuster reacted first to volley in from close range.
One clear opening, one goal. Metalist, by contrast, continued to do the legwork without the finish, Edmar the next culprit in failing to test Balázs Megyeri after José Ernesto Sosa's fine delivery. The hosts' imaginative No11 was at it again midway through the second half, dinking a cute ball to the back post which Taison headed wide.
Edmar was dismissed with eight minutes left and his side were uncharacteristically blunted thereafter; that door which looked to have been so precariously ajar earlier on had been slammed shut – for a week at least.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.