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Patchwork Greek side see off Cyprus in friendly (SN)

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 May 2008

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With a number of changes in their starting lineup, defending European champions Greece easily defeated Cyprus 2-0 in a friendly Monday played in this southern Greek port city.

Coach Otto Rehhagel was missing players from Greek champions Olympiakos, who were involved in the Greek Cup final over the weekend, as well as other players from abroad who had obligations, and thus had to use a number of younger players.

One of Rehhagel's new players was 18-year-old Panathinaikos midfielder Athens, Sotiris Ninis, who on his debut became the youngest player to score for the Greek national team, netting with just five minutes gone.

Ninis took a pass from fellow Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Salpiggidis and from just outside the penalty area blasted the ball under Cypriot goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides to give the home team a perfect start.

The Greeks had to wait until the hour mark to add to their tally when Benfica midfielder Kostas Katsouranis scored from the penalty spot.

The penalty was awarded by Scottish referee Douglas MacDonald when Panathinaikos midfielder Giorgos Karagounis was tripped up in the penalty area by Cypriot defender Marios Ilia.

Greece had numerous other scoring opportunities, including Katsouranis hitting the crossbar with a header in the 20th minute.

Cyprus came close to scoring only when Karagounis almost produced an own goal with his header in the 17th minute as he tried to clear the ball away with the ball just sailing over the crossbar.

The win was the eighth on a roll for Greece as they prepare to defend their Euro 2004 title this summer in Austria and Switzerland.

In the opening phase they face perennial underachievers Spain, Sweden and the unpredictable Russians.

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