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Consistency key as Panathinaikos prosper

SK Sturm Graz 0-1 Panathinaikos FC
Kostas Katsouranis's eighth goal of the season earned the visitors a third straight 1-0 win in Group F to move within a point of progress.

Kostas Katsouranis is engulfed after making it 1-0
Kostas Katsouranis is engulfed after making it 1-0 ©Getty Images

Kostas Katsouranis maintained his unprecedented hot streak in front of goal as Panathinaikos FC moved within a point of the round of 32 at the expense of now eliminated SK Sturm Graz.

Repeat prescription
A Dimitris Salpingidis penalty on the hour mark had earned the Greek side victory in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago and it was more of the same in Austria, though Henk ten Cate's charges had to wait ten minutes longer before Katsouranis set them on course for a third successive 1-0 UEFA Europa League win with his eighth goal of the season. There was no way back for Sturm and the highest they can now finish is third in Group F; for Panathinaikos, a point from their final two games will suffice.

Early pressure
There were early chances for both sides with Panathinaikos almost taking the lead after eleven minutes when Giorgios Karagounis raced clear, only to be stopped by Christian Gratzei's last-gasp intervention. Dimitris Salpingidis failed to score from a similar situation shortly afterwards, while Sturm relied on creating opportunities from occasional counterattacks. The hosts' best chance arrived shortly after the half-hour mark, when Daniel Beichler played a fine ball to Jakob Jantscher, who was unable to steer his shot on target.

More chances
Sturm pushed forward after the restart and another chance fell to Jantscher in the 55th minute, though again his off-target effort failed to trouble Panathinaikos keeper Alexandros Tzvorvas, while substitute Klemen Lavrič had an even better opportunity just after coming on but was similarly let down by a lack of finishing. Almost inevitably, Sturm paid the price as Katsouranis received the ball in the penalty area and made no mistake from close range. The Austrian side put in a determined effort in the closing stages but could not prevent their early exit from the competition.