Panathinaikos 0-0 Rubin Kazan: little invention from attackers and a good result for neither
A disappointing match in which both sides’ shooting ability deserted them.
Panathinaikos lined up with their now customary 4-2-3-1 system. Simao sat infront of the defence with Kostas Katsouranis playing a more energetic role, and linking up with Giorgos Karagonis. Luis Garcia started from the left and drifted into the centre, whilst on the other side, Stergos Marinos linked up with with Loukas Vyntra, the right-back.
Rubin Kazan came with a 4-4-1-1 system. They were well-organised and structured in the centre of the pitch, with Christian Noboa and Bibras Natcho in that zone, leaving the attacking to the two wide players, who switched wings throughout. Gokdeniz Karadeniz tirelessly ran between midfield and attack, with Sergei Kornilenko the tall target man.
Early on, the main difference between the two sides was their approach play. Rubin were content to pass the ball slowly around the defence, whilst Panathinaikos were keener to play a direct game, hitting the ball long towards Djibril Cisse, who was isolated upfront.
Panathinaikos need patience
When the game settled down and Karagounis saw more of the ball, Panathinaikos started to play slightly better. The home side looked better when they patiently built up play rather than hitting the ball forward at every opportunity – it meant that they could get the two full-backs forward, with Vyntra getting forward to good effect, and whipping in some dangerous balls from the right. Rubin were well-organised though, and most of these crosses were dealt with well – the towering figure of Cesar Navas kept Cisse quiet when the ball was wide.
Elsewhere, Luis Garcia was his usual self – often wasting possession when in promising positions, but also looking like the player most likely to unlock the opposition defence. He drifted in from the left and opened up space on the wing, but Nikos Spiropoulos was not as good at getting forward on that side as Vyntra was on the right.
Little goalmouth action
The more the game went on, the more frustrating Panathinaikos became. There was no cohesion between the lines, little movement and not enough support for Cisse. Balls were not played out of defence, they were simply booted as far as possible away from the penalty area. Even the distribution from Alexandros Tzorvas was disappointing – at one point Nikos Nioplias was visible angry at him for hurriedly booting the ball downfield in the vague direction of Cisse rather than waiting for Panathinaikos to move up the pitch. The Frenchman was making decent runs upfront in behind the centre-backs and across to the wings, but the through balls from Panathinaikos weren’t anywhere near good enough to take advantage.
Rubin were not particularly more threatening, although they did have a couple of decent moments, and Vyntra had to block a goalbound shot with his heel. It was notable that they were shooting more often – overall, they had 13 shots compared to Panathinaikos’ 5. They were shooting from long range, with the left-winger Alan Kasaev going close – this was possibly an attempt to test Tzorvas, who does have a reputation for making a mistake or two.
Another factor to consider was the referee, who was overly fussy throughout the game, and prevented either side from getting into a good rhythm.
The second half followed much the same pattern as the first, and neither side looked likely to make the breakthrough. Kasaev was growing into the game, and his more obvious presence seemed to force Marinos into a more defensive role, as he was subdued in the second half.
On the hour mark, Nioplias made two changes, bringing on Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Damien Plessis, withdrawing Karagounis and Katsouranis. Panathinaikos continued to play in the same formation, but required a chance in position for a few players – Luis Garcia came over to the right, Marinos moved into the centre of midfield alongside Simao, whilst Christodoulopoulos went on the left and Plessis went into the advanced midfield role.
This seemed a strange move, however, because Plessis was the player looked to for creativity, something which doesn’t come naturally to him. As such, the link between midfield and attack was even weaker, and the service for Cisse was even poorer. The one decent ball to him was headed in – but ruled out by the officials.
At the other end, Karadeniz was replaced by Obafemi Martins, but he was rarely involved and influenced the game little. Nipolias’ final move was to introduce Charalampos Mavrias to become the second-youngest player in Champions League history. He seemed to offer some level of attacking threat – at least he provided some direct running towards goal, and Panathinaikos suddenly woke up in stoppage time and had a couple of half-chances.
Overall, 0-0 was a fair reflection of the game. Neither side did enough to score, and at this point it is hard to see either progressing to the second round.
Panathinaikos were disjointed, with no cohesion between the lines, and awful service towards the striker throughout the evening. Just like in the previous game against Copenhagen, Nioplias’ substitutions were slightly baffling, and he seems to regard Plessis as some kind of game-changing creative supersub, when in reality he possesses little technical quality and would be better suited in front of his own defence.
Qualification now seems impossible for Panathinaikos, and whilst Rubin might regard a point away from home as a good result, the fact Copenhagen won in Athens means Rubin still trail the Danes by four points.
This article was originally published in Greek at Sport24.gr
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