A battling Olympiacos fought back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in a thrilling Champions League Group B opener at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium on Wednesday.
Harry Kane’s first-half penalty and a stunning Lucas Moura strike put Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side firmly in control somewhat against the run of play, but Daniel Podence’s vital strike on the stroke of half-time put Pedro Martins’ gutsy Thrylos side back in contention.
Mathieu Valbuena then slotted home a 54th-minute penalty to level matters for Olympiacos, and there were chances for both sides to win the match, although neither could get the breakthrough.
The result, however, represents a hugely positive one for Olympiacos, who gave a good account of themselves against last year’s finalists.
There was an electric atmosphere at the Karaiskakis stadium, with the feeling of a special European night clearly in the air as Olympiacos played host to the team who were beaten by Liverpool in last season’s final.
The teams were greeted to a superb banner display from Olympiacos’ Gate 7 Ultras, and the anticipation in the air was tangible.
Olympiacos came into this match on the back of a rich vein of domestic form, and with a baying Karaiskaki crowd behind them, the home side looked clearly in the mood to get off to a positive start.
And it was the home side who looked more comfortable on the ball in the opening exchanges, although Tottenham looked dangerous on the break whenever they got a sniff of possession.
The visitors, however, were not getting in any areas to hurt Olympiacos, and it was the hosts who fashioned the first chance of the match after 19 minutes – which should have resulted in a goal.
A great piece of play down the left by Kostas Tsimikas ended with the left-back sending over a cross which was chested down to his right by Daniel Podence, right into the path of Miguel Guerrero. The Spanish forward fired in a volley which cannoned back of the post. Guilherme then came rampaging onto the ball but crashed his shot on the rebound into the turf and it angled narrowly over the crossbar.
Unfortunately, Olympiacos would live to regret that miss, as just six minutes later they gave away a penalty when Meriah tripped Kane. The England striker stepped up confidently and lashed his spot-kick straight down the middle and beyond Olympiacos goalkeeper Jose Sa.
On the half-hour mark, it was suddenly 2-0 to the visitors when Moura was inexplicably afforded acres of space on the edge of the penalty box and rifled a brilliant strike into the top corner.
It seemed that there would be no way back at that point for Olympiacos, but, spurred on by their raucous support, the hosts continued to try to play their way through Spurs and they were rewarded on 44 minutes.
The goal was all about Podence’s pace and direct play. The impressive Portuguese forward exchanged passes with Valbuena, racing onto the Frenchman’s return ball before arrowing a low shot into the bottom corner past Huge Lloris.
That goal gave the home side a huge lift and they came out in the second half looking eager to get back on level terms.
And they got their chance nine minutes after the restart when Jan Vertonghen fouled Valbuena in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. The Belgian was a fraction late with his challenge right on the very edge of the area as Spurs failed to clear their lines.
Valbuena dusted himself down before sending a clinical spot-kick past his countryman Lloris to bring the scores level and spark jubilant celebrations.
From then on it seemed that Spurs looked content to hang on for a draw as Olympiacos, sensing they could get the three points, put all their efforts into attacking the visitors at every opportunity.
In the closing stages Spurs applied some considerable pressure on the Olympiacos goal, but substitute Eric Lamela was thwarted by a smart save from Jose Sa as the visitors passed up what was their best chance to win it.
Olympiacos: 1 José Sá (GK), 3 Ruben Semedo, 5 Bouchalakis, 8 Guilherme, 9 Guerrero, 10 Podence, 14 Elabdellaoui ©, 19 Masouras, 20 Meriah, 21 Tsimikas, 28 Valbuena
Tottenham: 1 Lloris (GK)(C), 4 Alderweireld, 5 Vertonghen, 6 Sánchez, 8 Winks, 10 Kane, 20 Alli, 23 Eriksen, 27 Moura, 28 Ndombele, 33 Davies
GROUP B STANDINGS
Tottenham 1 pt (2:2)
Olympiacos 1 pt (2:2)
Bayern Munich 0 pts (0:0)*
Crvena Zvezda 0 pts (0:0)*
*Play their opener at 22:00
by Graham Wood
*Image Source: Onsports.gr
*For more sports head to AGONASport.com