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Panathinaikos 2-3 Atletico Madrid 09/10 Champ Lge Play-off Round

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Pana 2-3 Atletico

It was just like what the commentator of the match commented just before the kick-off of this match, that this match was a high-stake football game. Indeed, it was no ordinary football match in the imposing cauldron of the OAKA Spyros Louis Stadium in Athens, Greece. This match is the first leg of the UEFA Champions League play-off stage match to determine which of the two teams would advance to the lucrative and prestigious Group Stage of the competition, which means a lot of prestige for the qualified club as well as vital amount of cash bonus for qualifying,

Everyone attending the match in Athens was enthusiastic. The fans of Panathinaikos spurred their teams with their songs and chants right from the moment when the players from both teams emerged from the tunnels to get the match going.

It could be observed that both teams didn’t want to sit back and wait for each other to make serious mistakes before delivering the sucker punch. Both teams seemed to be very inclined to finish the match as well as the tie off right from kick-off. After a couple of attacking intents from both teams, a nice ball from the Panathinaikos midfield put Djibril Cisse, (formerly of Liverpool and Sunderland) through on goal, but he was rather dallying a bit too much with the ball and his shot, weakened by a deflection off an Atletico defender was able to be saved quite easily yet convincingly by Sergio Asenjo, the promising Spanish goalkeeper who is very agile to make up for his short stature, much to the chagrin of the enthusiastic home support.

There were also quite neat offensive moves at the other end with Forlan and Sergio Aguero especially at the epicenter of these attacking moves. However, they were not really able to make those neat moves count, and generally weren’t able to breach a sturdy Panathinaikos backline. Perhaps the fact that extremely loud boos that greet Forlan and Aguero every time they get the ball influenced things a bit. Nevertheless, the team were still level after around 20 minutes. Soon after, the home side got another breakthrough after some neat passing moves in the midfield and Panathinaikos’ Salpingidis applied the finishing touch to “score”, only to find out almost immediately afterwards that he was in an offside position prior to his finishing touch. Thus, his goal was disallowed.

At around 36th minute, the deadlock of the match was broken when a Panathinaikos defender was dispossessed and Atletico launched a very flashy and swift counterattack. The ball reached Forlan, who completely outplayed the home side’s defenders around their penalty area before launching a pin-point pass along the ground for Maxi Rodriguez, after which the Argentinian was able to apply a cool, placed finish to put the rojiblancos ahead and induces silence in the stadium. The first half was concluded with the scoreline of 0-1 in the favor of the visitors as well as the silence throughout the stadium.

Henk ten Cate, Panathinaikos’ manager must have had a stern team-talk during the half time break as it took only 2 minutes after the restart for the home side to restore orders in the stadium. A counterattack found Atletico’s defense wanting and Salpingidis, who in the first half failed to score made it up with an exquisite volley-cum-chip over the relatively short statured Sergio Asenjo to make it 1-1 and to restore the loud volume in the stadium.

Shortly afterwards, Panathinaikos continued to press, and they won a free kick around 30 meters from the penalty area. Giorgos Karagounis rifled in a powerful shot which was spectacularly saved by Sergio Asenjo using one hand. Sergio Asenjo really showed his potentials to one day inherit the national team’s no. 1 jersey from Iker Casillas. He also showed shades of another legendary goalkeeper…

Despite the spell of a mini-domination being enjoyed by the home side so far, Atletico refused to give in and kept on attempting to score further away goals. Yet after another counterattack in the match, Maxi Rodriguez launched a long range drive towards the home goal which hit the post, but Diego Forlan was nearby to pounce on the rebound before launching a powerful low drive to put Atletico ahead again. 2-1 for the visitors.

Seven minutes later on the 70th minute, Atletico launched yet another offensive move, in which Sergio Aguero got the ball at around the ¾ point of the field. Aguero then showed flashes of his father in law, Diego Maradona when he dribbled towards the penalty area, he went past Panathinaikos’ two defenders easily before launching a placed shot to score his team’s 3rd goal in the match to make it 3-1. Exquisite goal if not because of Panathinaikos’ ‘keeper to spread himself enough to prevent the goal.

In this entertaining game full of attacking mentality, Panathinaikos didn’t want to go to Spain for the second leg trailing by 2 goals (might be worth 3 goals since all 3 goals scored by Atletico are all away goals) and they kept their offensive moves. It paid off at the 74th minute when Sebastian Leto, brought on at the stroke of half time received the ball around Atletico’s penalty area before launching an audacious shot from outside of the area which Sergio Asenjo had no chance to save. 2-3 still in the favor of the away side but the home side really needed this goal if they are to have any chance of progressing. I mentioned earlier that Asenjo showed flashes of a legendary goalkeeper and the ‘keeper mentioned is actually Fabien Barthez. Short stature, check. Brilliant saves from short range, check. Suspect when being tested by long shots, check.

Both teams were still searching for further goals but weren’t able to get the goals they wanted to have. At the final whistle, the scoreline read: Panathinaikos 2-3 Atletico Madrid.

I am certainly looking forward to the second leg match in Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium which is most likely to be a contest of attacking football, a rarity in modern day football nowadays… Let’s savor these attacking moments while we can!

Written by cp

22/08/2009 at 00:31

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