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Olisadebe pegs back Arsenal

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

By Paris Ayiomamitis at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium

[1] A goal by substitute Emmanuel Olisadebe eight minutes before the end salvaged a draw for Panathinaikos FC in a thrilling Group E encounter against Arsenal FC.

Match swings

[2] The English champions, who were made to fight hard by the determined hosts, took the lead after 18 minutes with Fredrik Ljungberg before Argentinian midfield player Ezequiel González equalised with a spectacular lob just after the hour. Thierry Henry put Arsenal back in the driving seat again on 74 minutes before Olisadebe headed in an Angelos Basinas corner to leave both these sides just behind new leaders PSV Eindhoven.

Scasny caution

[3] Recently-appointed Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Scasny, starting with a cautious 3-6-1 formation, was forced to omit German defender Markus Münch due to injury, with Pantelis Konstantinidis taking his place on the left wing. Leading scorer Dimitrios Papadopoulos was also missing through injury and Scasny entrusted his attack to lone striker Michalis Konstantinou. Olisadabe was on the bench after a long absence due to injury, but Basinas returned to midfield after recovering from a back complaint.

Ljungberg returns

[4] Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger had Patrick Vieira, Gilberto and Dennis Bergkamp all unavailable, but welcomed back Ljungberg on the right side of midfield after missing Saturday's English Premiership defeat of Aston Villa FC with a hamstring problem. Robert Pires supported stand-in captain Henry up front, with José Antonio Reyes on the left, and Edu and 17-year-old Francesc Fabregas in the centre of midfield.

Early chance

[5] Panathinaikos got off to a lively start and Basinas shot narrowly wide of Jens Lehmann's left-hand post after two minutes. Konstantinou then broke free on the right side and sent in a low cross which González was unable to turn in.

Arsenal ahead

[6] Basinas was involved again on 15 minutes when he unleashed a blistering long-range shot which Lehmann was well positioned to block. But three minutes later the visitors opened the scoring in clinical fashion as Reyes caught Panathinaikos's defence napping and delivered a brilliant through-ball to Ljungberg, who easily beat Konstantinos Chalkias from close range to the delight of the small contingent of Arsenal fans.

Panathinaikos attack

[7] The visitors seemed content to control the pace of the game thereafter as Panathinaikos fought back. However, headers from Konstantinou on 25 minutes and Sotirios Kyrgiakos 13 minutes later, and a well-struck free-kick by Basinas on the stroke of half-time was the closest they came before the interval.

Skacel advances

[8] Panathinaikos resumed with more purpose after the interval but Arsenal defended well while continuing to threaten on the counterattack. Scasny pushed Rudolf Skácel forward to support the increasingly isolated Konstantinou. Dumitru Mitu almost levelled on 60 minutes when his left-footed shot sailed narrowly off the intended target.

Superb lob

[9] But the determined home team were not seriously troubling the English champions until Olisadebe arrived in place of Konstantinou on 64 minutes. Moments later the capacity crowd was set alight when Lehmann came out to clear but only found González, who lobbed the Arsenal goalkeeper with an audacious long-range effort.

Henry scores

[10] Arsenal restored their lead nine minutes later in their first dangerous foray of the half when Henry - clearly relishing the opportunity to silence a hostile home crowd - turned in a cross from Ashley Cole.

Vital equaliser

[11] However, the visitors' joy was short lived as Olisadebe equalised with a thumping header eight minutes before the end. That goal enlivened the match with action at either end of the pitch and Arsenal were unlucky not to retake the lead three minutes later when Pires was denied by Chalkias from close range as the game ended level.

Arsenal's Francesc Fabregas (left) takes on Dimitru Mitu