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Athens stalemate shows room for improvement

Despite drawing a blank on Matchday 3 in Athens, the feeling in each of the Panathinaikos FC and FC Rubin Kazan dressing rooms is that they can still progress from Group D.

Athens stalemate shows room for improvement
Athens stalemate shows room for improvement ©UEFA.com

Panathinaikos FC and FC Rubin Kazan head into their Matchday 4 encounter in Russia believing they are masters of their own UEFA Champions League destinies after Wednesday's goalless draw between th clubs in Athens.

The Russian champions, with a meagre return of two points from three games, are hoping to make home advantage count when first Panathinaikos on 2 November, and then second-placed FC København, visit the Centralni stadium before they finish their Group D campaign against leaders FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.

Rubin midfielder Alan Kasaev told UEFA.com: "It was a very difficult game against Panathinaikos – our objective was to win but we didn't do that and have dropped two important points. We now have two home games and it is vital we get two victories if we want to have a chance of progressing."

Kasaev caught the eye for Kurban Berdyev's men at the OACA Spiros Louis Stadium, forcing fine saves in each half from Alexandros Tzorvas and proving a constant threat with thrusting runs from midfield. However, Rubin have failed to turn such menace into goals, finding the net just once in three matches.

"Perhaps it's down to the tightness of the games," said the 24-year-old Kasaev. "In the Champions League there is often not much difference between teams and so it's not easy to score. Hopefully this will change in the next three matches. Everything depends on us now. We hope the points we pick up at home will be enough to help us qualify."

Nor were Panathinaikos dispirited by their own goal drought which continued in Athens, where injury ruled out Sidney Govou, Sotiris Ninis and Sebastian Leto, and suspension deprived coach Nikos Nioplias of Gilberto Silva.

"Of course it's going to be difficult for us now," said Greens forward Luis García, whose side have one goal from three outings, with seven conceded. "We played well and had good chances but if you don't score in this competition you know you will not go through. But we will keep working and see what happens. I don't think we are finished yet."

The Greek Super League outfit lie bottom of Group D despite collecting their first point, and the fact they fielded the second-youngest debutant in UEFA Champions League history in 16-year-old midfielder Charis Mavrias – a 78th-minute substitute – might suggest they had one eye already on future challenges.

"It was an unbelievable experience to play for Panathinaikos in the Champions League," Mavrias said. "The result left a bitter taste because in my opinion we controlled the game. But we will keep going and are looking forward to the next game." With Rubin sat four points behind København, and Panathinaikos an extra point adrift, the return fixture in Russia could hardly be more crucial.