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Determined Greece prove mettle

Published: Saturday 7 June 2003, 22.45CET
Spain 0-1 Greece Stylianos Giannakopoulos's goal late in the first half gave Greece a surprise win.
Published: Saturday 7 June 2003, 22.45CET

Determined Greece prove mettle

Spain 0-1 Greece Stylianos Giannakopoulos's goal late in the first half gave Greece a surprise win.

Stylianos Giannakopoulos's powerful goal late in the first half gave Greece victory - in a match dominated by previously unbeaten UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 6 leaders Spain.

Canny guile
With Antonios Nikopolidis having a superb game in the visitors' goal, and his defence showing a canny guile in their pressing game, Greece - who spent the last eight minutes down to ten men - were able to withstand some tremendous pressure and gain revenge for their 2-0 defeat at home by Spain last September.

Attacking lineup
Spain began the game with an attacking lineup pairing Real Madrid CF strikers Fernando Morientes and Raúl González up front, supported by Joseba Etxeberría and Juan Valerón, both in advanced midfield positions. Injury-hit Greece were forced to make four changes to the starting eleven that beat Northern Ireland in April.

Under pressure
The new-look Greek side were put under pressure from the off as Spain set off with attacking intent, and kept the pace up for virtually the entire first-half. Panathinaikos FC goalkeeper Nikopolidis was a busy man as Spain forced a succession of corners in the opening minutes, Raúl, Valerón and Mortientes all going close.

Greek substitutes
Etxeberría curled a free-kick wide on 29 minutes as Spain began to find their attacks frustrated by the determined visitors. Otto Rehhagel introduced Vassilios Lakis and Giorgios Karagounis as substitutes soon after to bolster the Greek attack, and against the run of play the visitors found themselves ahead.

Superbly struck shot
The home team had a warning on 41 minutes when Dellas headed wide after a clever corner move. And two minutes afterwards the goal came when left-back Stylianos Venetidis found Giannakopoulos, who sent a superbly struck shot from 20 metres out beyond the reach of Iker Casillas.

'Big mistake'
Spain, who had 63 per cent of the first-half possession and led the shot count 8-3 were shocked to say the least to be behind at the break. "We began well, controlled the game and had some good early chances," said coach Iñaki Sáez. "Our big mistake was allowing them to score with their only chance of the first half."

Control reasserted
As the second half moved into gear, Spain reasserted their control and created even more chances than they had before the break. Raúl had a close-range shot blocked by Nikopolidis, and the goalkeeper was on hand to dive and save as Javier De Pedro came on as a substitute and immediately went close with a free-kick.

Venetidis dismissed
On 82 minutes, Spain were given a lifeline when defender Stylianos Venetidis was dismissed for a second booking, a trip on substitute Joaquín Sánchez. Sergio, Spain's third replacement, forced another excellent Nikopolidis save, but Greece regrouped, and even had the last chance, Lakis denied a shot only by Michel Salgado.

Vital encounters
Looking ahead to Wednesday's visit to Northern Ireland, Sáez added: "Now it is vital for us to go to Belfast and get a good win." Greece face Ukraine on the same night - two teams now only a point behind the group leaders.

Last updated: 30/03/04 10.48CET