COPENHAGEN - FC Copenhagen became the first
Danish club to reach the last 16 of the Champions League on
Tuesday after beating Panathinaikos 3-1 to finish second in
Group D in front of their ecstatic fans at the Parken Stadium.
Forward Martin Vingaard put the Danes ahead in the 26th
minute from the right side of the area, lashing in a half-volley
fro 20 metres with their first shot on target.
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Panathinaikos then began to look more dangerous on a frosty
night but five minutes after the break Nikos Spyropoulos brought
down Copenhagen's Jesper Gronkjaer as he broke clear on goal.
There was a sigh of relief from the home fans as the winger
got up to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot.
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The home side, roared on by an enthusiastic 36,000 crowd,
should have scored again when Dame N'Doye went round goalkeeper
Alexandros Tzorvas but sent his shot against the post.
They sealed victory in the 73rd when Panathinaikos captain
Djibril Cisse nodded an own goal off a Vingaard corner.
Panathinaikos, who finished bottom of the group, grabbed a
late consolation goal through Cedric Kante's header in stoppage
time, the Greek side's 300th goal in 245 European games.
Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken said he was "happy and
relieved" after his side had wasted opportunities to pick up
points near the end of the group stage.
Copenhagen finished with 10 points behind unbeaten Barcelona
on 14 and are only the second Nordic team after Norwegian club
Rosenborg to make it so far in the competition's current format.
"When we started... we could only cause a surprise but
towards the end of the group stage we twice had 'match point'
and that increased the pressure on us so I'm happy and relieved
that we succeeded," said Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken.
His side's previous 'match points' came in a 1-1 draw at
home to Barcelona and a 1-0 defeat at Rubin Kazan.
"I dare say that we have maybe one of the best defences in
the entire Champions League," added Solbakken. "At the same
time, we play a good and solid basic game, and I think we were
the second best team in this group.
Looking ahead to the knockout phase, he told reporters: "We
need to avoid Real Madrid and the three big British teams to go
beyond the next stage.
"But if I were to point out some opponents who we would have
the best chance against I would say Schalke, Tottenham or
Shakhtar Donetsk, if those teams are among the opponents we
Panathinaikos coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who took charge in
the middle of the campaign, turned his attention back to the
"We didn't have enough time to change things," he said.
"Now we're number one in our country and should focus on
staying on top in Greece."
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