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Málaga blunt Panathinaikos to seal famous first

Panathinaikos FC 0-0 Málaga CF (agg: 0-2)
The Spanish side made it to the group stage for the first time after keeping the Greens at arm's length in Athens.

Málaga blunt Panathinaikos to seal famous first
Málaga blunt Panathinaikos to seal famous first ©UEFA.com

Málaga CF sealed a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in their history after a goalless draw against Panathinaikos FC in Athens meant they won their play-off tie 2-0 on aggregate.

Manuel Pellegrini's side were always in the ascendancy following last week's comfortable home win, thanks to goals from Martín Demichelis and Eliseu, and clear scoring chances were hard to come by as the Andalusian club produced a solid display in the Greek capital to keep Jesualdo Ferreira's team at bay. Málaga will now go into Thursday's draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage, while Panathinaikos will be in the UEFA Europa League draw on Friday.

The visitors made a confident start as their went in search of an early goal to settle the tie, registering the first shot after just two minutes when Fabrice volleyed wide from Eliseu's cross, and Isco dragged a snapshot just past Orestis Karnezis's right post.

In between Málaga’s early forward forays, Panathinaikos displayed their attacking intent down the left with the lively Ibrahim Sissoko picking out Nikos Spyropoulos's run after some patient build-up play, but his low cross flashed agonisingly across the box.

The hosts were presented with a chance to open the scoring when they were awarded a 19th-minute free-kick 20 metres out, but Lazaros Christodoulopoulos rifled his effort into the Málaga defensive wall.

The tempo slowed as both teams sought to keep possession, but the hosts were reminded of the danger posed by Málaga when Eliseu curled wide before Greens midfielder Zeca hacked the ball of the line after Karnezis had fumbled a corner.

Charis Mavrias replaced Zeca at half-time as Ferreira attempted to inject some creativity, but the Greens continued to struggle to fashion clear openings from open play despite the impressive work rate of Sissoko. Christodolopoulos remained a danger from set pieces, however, the Greece forward going close with a curling free-kick which sailed narrowly over Málaga goalkeeper Willy's crossbar just before the hour mark.

Málaga seemed content to sit back as the second half wore on, and Ferreira played his final card by introducing Stergos Marinos for Kostas Katsouranis and Spanish striker Toché for Bruno Fornaroli with 20 minutes left, but neither player could spark a comeback as Málaga held firm to celebrate qualification with their small but jubilant away following.

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