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Ivić on target as PAOK nerve holds

PAOK FC 1-0 NK Dinamo Zagreb
Vladimir Ivić found the chink in the visitors' defensive armour as a mimimum-risk strategy fell short for Dinamo.

Vladimir Ivić (left) steals in to score PAOK's winner against Dinamo Zagreb
Vladimir Ivić (left) steals in to score PAOK's winner against Dinamo Zagreb ©Getty Images

Vladimir Ivić scored the only goal in the UEFA Europa League Group D tie at the Toumbas Stadium, as PAOK FC held their nerve amid late NK Dinamo Zagreb pressure.

The Croatian champions had barely registered as an attacking force in the opening period, but looked capable of holding on for a point in Salonika until Ivić snuck in behind the last defender from Pablo García's 56th-minute free-kick and nonchalantly side-footed the ball past static Dinamo goalkeeper Ivan Kelava.

Fielding Zlatan Muslimović as a lone striker, PAOK could not be faulted for first-half effort, but Dinamo soaked up pressure with minimum fuss. Tellingly, the nearest PAOK came to a goal was an off-target Vieirinha punt and an angled shot from Muslimović, hit more in hope than expectation, which did not trouble Ivan Kelava.

Dinamo's minimum-risk strategy almost bore fruit after the break as a Sammir free-kick was deflected just over Dario Krešić's crossbar, but PAOK made the breakthrough shortly afterwards. Forced to show their hand, Vahid Halilhodžić's Dinamo lumbered forward, with Muslimović almost profiting from the extra space as he fired a shot at Kelava.

PAOK looked to hand the Croatian side a dose of their own medicine, defending their lines capably, and barely allowing a Dinamo player to cast a shadow inside their penalty area, but there were lapses. Krešić needed to make a fine 76th-minute stop to deny Sammir, before Pablo Contreras deflected the Brazilian's second effort wide.

Space opened up once more at the death, but, as the ball drifted across the face of Krešić's unguarded net, no one could find a finishing touch.