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Saviola the hero as Olympiacos squeeze through

Olympiacos FC 3-1 RSC Anderlecht
Míchel's men missed two penalties but two-goal Javier Saviola earned the all-important victory that sent them through as Group C runners-up.

Saviola the hero as Olympiacos squeeze through
Saviola the hero as Olympiacos squeeze through ©UEFA.com

Javier Saviola struck twice as Olympiacos FC secured a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage courtesy of a hard-earned 3-1 win over eight-man RSC Anderlecht in Piraeus which took the Greek title holders through for the first time since 2009/10.

The 31-year-old forward opened the scoring on 33 minutes with a clinical finish but the hosts were punished for a concentration lapse with Sacha Kljestan finishing off a flowing counterattaack to equalise. Saviola missed a penalty at the start of the second half after Anderlecht defender Cheikhou Kouyaté was dismissed for a second yellow card elicited by his handball, but the diminutive Argentinian soon netted from close range to get his second.

There was late drama when Fabrice N'Sakala and goalkeeper Silvio Proto were also sent off – the former for two yellow cards, the latter for a red. Proto had earlier kept out Vladimír Weiss's spot kick, but following his marching orders Alejandro Domínguez succeeded with a third penalty to clinch the victory.

Needing to match SL Benfica's result against Paris Saint-Germain – a 2-1 home win in Lisbon, it transpired – to emerge from the group phase for the first time in four years, Míchel's team began on the front foot with Michael Olaitan threatening with his direct running in the absence of injured leading scorer Kostas Mitroglou.

Paulo Machado registered the first notable effort with a free-kick turned around the post by Proto. If chances were at a premium, Olympiacos made their possession count after the half-hour mark when Saviola pounced. The No9, who had curled a shot wide moments earlier, latched onto David Fuster's deflected strike which fell kindly for him to bury a low drive past Proto.

Anderlecht were level six minutes later when John van den Brom's Belgian champions executed a classic break down the left following an Olympiacos corner. It culminated in Dennis Praet playing an unselfish pass to Kljestan who slotted into an open net from close range. Five minutes after the restart Olympiacos were presented with a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead, a penalty awarded for Kouyaté's handling offence – only for Saviola's weak attempt to be parried by Proto.

Saviola made no mistake in the 58th minute though, stretching to prod Fuster's mis-hit into the top corner to put the Reds ahead for a second time. Weiss then became the second player to fail from the spot with 18 minutes left, the substitute being denied by Proto, who also showed brilliant reflexes to palm away Olaitan's goal-bound shot. However, defender N'Sakala and Proto himself were sent off for late lunges, with the latter punishment exacerbated by a 95th-minute penalty that substitute Domínguez converted.

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