Panathiniakos show resolve as Athenians break the Roman siege.

Panathinaikosbadge

PANATHINAIKOS 3
Dimitrios Salpigidis 66, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos 84, Djibril Cisse 89

Romabadge

ROMA 2
Mirko Vucinic 29, David Pizarro pen 81

Roma had travelled to Greece with high hopes and performed well, taking the lead twice in Greece. Nothing can be taken away from Panthiniakos however, who struck back with two late goals to send the Athenian crowd into raptures.

The Giallorossi had good reason in hoping that they would gain the upper hand in their trip to Athens last night. Roma had a twenty game unbeaten run before the start of play and also had lost just once in their last five away European games this season. They have also never been beaten by Greek opposition. Claudio Ranieri can also boast his side are only six points of Inter in the title race and have hopes of pushing the Milan side all the way to the finish.

The Greek side started well and looked in charge after the early exchanges, Julio Sergio proving more than capable as he has all season with some confident goalkeeping. This gave Roma the kick they needed and they replied with John Arne Riise’s left foot strike which nearly broke the Greek crossbar. Julio Sergio’s agility was tested again moments later, justifying his selection in a problem area for the Giallorossi. Mirko Vucinic then scored a majestic goal when he picked the ball up on the edge of the box and curled it into the far corner on 29 minutes. Before the break Julio Sergio was injured and replaced by Alexander Doni, a problem for Roma if the injury is serious.

The second half provided a deluge of entertainment and goals, the first coming when Dimitrios Salpigidis was in the right place at the right time only moments after coming on. A corner was put to the far post and not dealt with only for the substitute to tap home. On the 81st minute Roma were awarded a penalty, David Pizzaro stepped up to make it 2-1 and the game looked settled. Not according to Panathiniakos, whose answer was swift. Only three minutes after the Roma goal, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos profited from poor Roman defending and his quick turn and volley nutmegged the despairing Doni. The shock had obviously stunned Roma, as on 87 minutes Panathiniakos attacked and the unthinkable happened, they scored. Djibril Cisse out jumped all in his path to header home for 3-2.

It was cruel for Roma. They had played so well earlier in the game but the home side had been tenacious and swept forward by their fantastically hostile support had fought for this victory. It was essential that they produced this as the trip to Rome will be equally as tough and in equally hostile circumstances. Roma can take pride in their performance going forward and have a vital two away goals although they looked inept in clearing the ball in their own area, especially at set pieces. The loss of Julio Sergio may also be key as he has filled a gap that has so long been the Achilles heel of the Roma squad. The return leg promises to be battle of mythological proportions.

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