ATHENS - A second-half goal from Greece midfielder Giorgos Karagounis secured Panathinaikos a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a 1-0 win over Anorthosis Famagusta on Tuesday. Victory sent the Athens side though as winners of Group B on 10 points, two ahead of Inter Milan who lost 2-1 at Werder Bremen. Panathinaikos took just one point from their first three games before stringing together three successive wins. Coach Henk Ten Cate said he had never lost faith in his side. "I believe in this team and I believe in my players. I believed after two games, when we were written off with zero points that we could still qualify," he said. "I saw an improvement and I saw an extra determination from the players especially after the defeat at Anorthosis. I told people it wasn't over. "Of course I couldn't dream we would get nine points from the last three games with away wins at Bremen and Inter. But this is football. I am very proud of the team, they did a fantastic job." The only goal of the game came in the 68th minute when Karagounis collected a cross from Dimitris Salpingidis and fired in a shot that squirmed over the body of substitute goalkeeper Zoltan Nagy. The Greek side went into the game knowing that a draw would be enough to see them through but they attacked from the start, Karagounis drawing a superb save from starting goalkeeper Arian Beqaj. Anorthosis should have taken the lead in the 15th minute when Cedric Bardon attacked down the left flank and sent a sliderule pass across the face of the goal. Hawar Taher, however, arrived fractionally early at the far post and met the ball with his knee and sending it over the bar from two metres out. Panathinaikos were the more creative side throughout and, after Vangelis Mantzios had been denied twice by late blocks, Nagy, who came on at halftime for Beqaj, spread himself well to deny Cleyton. The home team, roared on by a capacity crowd at the Olympic Stadium, enjoyed a slice of luck when Cleyton's replacement Salpingidis sent over a cross for Karagounis who stepped inside a defender before firing in a fierce shot that cruelly evaded Nagy's grasp and dribbled into the net. Anorthosis, who had needed a victory to reach the knockout phase, finished bottom of the group and missed out on the UEFA Cup slot. "Sadly our European adventure ends here but I am very proud of my players," said Anorthosis coach Temuri Ketsbaia. "A few months ago nobody would have given us the chance of being able to qualify in the last match. In the end the pressure was too much."
9 December 2008
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