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Rivals stagger to stalemate

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

[1] Group 2 rivals Greece and Turkey played out a dour goalless draw in Athens to leave both sides still searching for their first victory in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Cagey opening

[2] The two favourites for the group entered the game looking to bounce back from disappointing opening matches on Saturday. UEFA EURO 2004™ winners Greece had been shocked 2-1 in Albania while Turkey, semi-finalists at the last World Cup, were held 1-1 at home by Georgia.

Servet clearance

[3] There was nothing to choose between the sides for the opening 15 minutes until the Turkish defence was caught out by a long ball which put Stelios Giannakopoulos through with only goalkeeper Rüstü Reçber to beat. His shot was heading towards goal, only for Servet Cetin to scramble the ball off the line.

Nikopolidis saves

[4] This stung the visitors into life and they began to press forward. With 25 minutes on the clock the ball broke to Nihat Kahveci just inside the penalty area but his fierce shot was superbly tipped over by home goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis.

Relief for Rüstü

[5] As the half wore on the game began to open up and Greece nearly went ahead in the 39th minute when a run down the right flank from Giourkas Seitaridis caused confusion in the visitors' penalty area. Rüstü came out to deal with the situation but his poor punch fell straight to Konstantinos Katsouranis. However, the AEK Athens FC player could only nod a weak header straight back into the arms of a relieved Rüstü.

Goal ruled out

[6] The excitement level dropped significantly after the break, with both sides seemingly settling for a point a long way from the end of the game. Chances proved scarce with the best effort falling to Turkey's Deniz Baris in the 75th minute, but his header from a right-wing cross was straight at Nikopolidis. Greece did have the ball in the net just two minutes later but Angelos Charisteas's scrambled effort was rightly ruled out after a clear foul on Rüstü.

Penalty claim

[7] The home fans hoped for a penalty seven minutes from time when Katsouranis went to ground in the area, but Swedish referee Anders Frisk waved away the Greek appeals and the match eventually fizzled out into a stalemate, which failed to ignite either nation's hopes of qualification.

Emre Belözoglu of Turkey slides in on Greece's Giorgos Karagounis