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Anorthosis notch historic victory to sink Panathinaikos

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 Oct 2008

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Anorthosis Famagusta clinched their first ever Champions League group stage victory here on Wednesday beating Greek side Panathinaikos 3-1 to keep their qualification hopes alive.

Two quickfire goals in the first 15 minutes put Anorthosis in dreamland and on their way to recording a crucial victory in this group B game.

Despite the Greeks starting brightly they went behind to a calamitous own goal when defender Jose Sarriegi headed past his keeper inside the area.

Anorthosis had hardly mounted a serious attack when Serb midfielder Sinisa Dobrasinovic also powered a header past floundering keeper Mario Galinovic.

Panathinaikos were offered a lifeline when Greek international Dimitris Salpingidis slotted home a penalty on 28 minutes after Jeffrey Leiwakabessy was judged to have handled the ball inside the box.

The penalty gave a boost to the visitors who showed more purpose going forward and pressed for the eqauliser while the home side was content to defend deep and hit on the counter.

The outcome was put beyond doubt when a close-range header, from substitute Hawar Taher found the back of the net on 78 minutes.

With four points in the bag the Cypriots travel to Inter Milan in two weeks full of confidence that they can pull off another Champions League upset.

The Cypriots could thank towering central defender Traianos Dellas – a hero for Greece in their stunning Euro 2004 success – for keeping them in the game as he expertly snuffed out many Panathinaikos attacks with timely headers and interceptions.

Although the visitors enjoyed the lions share of possession – it took an hour for Anorthosis to earn a corner – it wasn’t to be their night.

The second half was pedestrian by comparison with Anorthosis defending a lead while Panathinaikos lacked the invention to find a route to goal.

Debutants Anorthosis are the first Cypriot team to host a Champions League game and Nicosia’s GSP stadium – their home stadium does not meet requirements – was packed to near capacity for the landmark fixture.

The refugee club from Famagusta enjoyed passionate support through out the game billed as the biggest match in Cypriot football history.

And a huge roar echoed around the ground when the final whistle blew.

The unfancied Cypriots came into the game full confidence following a creditable 0-0 draw away to Bremen in their opening match while Panathinaikos – a European Cup finalist – lost at home to group favourites Inter Milan.

Anorthosis – lying joint top in the group – now travel to Italy for the next chapter of this intriguing European adventure.

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