Champions League: Olympiakos beats Anderlecht 3-1
PIRAEUS, Greece (AP) — Javier Saviola netted two stylish goals as Olympiakos advanced to the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday with a pulsating 3-1 win over an Anderlecht side that finished with eight men.
The Greeks missed two second-half penalties but edged out Group C rival Benfica for second place behind Paris Saint Germain.
Olympiakos was missing suspended captain Giannis Maniatis and injured striker Kostas Mitroglou, putting the pressure was on Saviola to deliver after his teammates took charge early.
The Argentine forward aimed wide in the 33rd minute but scored seconds later with a left-foot volley after a deflected ball landed in front of him.
“We have worked hard and kept our heads down, and that hard work has got us through,” Saviola said. “Everything counts more in the Champions league: scoring, winning, celebrating. So this is a great moment.”
After taking the lead, the hosts pushed forward, but Dennis Praet gained ground on the break and set up Sacha Kljestan for a 39th minute equalizer.
Defender Cheikou Kouyate was sent off after handling the ball in the area four minutes into the second half, but Saviola struck a weak penalty shot that was well blocked by goalkeeper Silvio Proto.
There was no mistake from Saviola in the 58th, however, when he hammered in his second, expertly tilting to drive in a shot from teammate David Fuster.
Proto saved another penalty shot from Vladimir Weiss in the 72nd, and the Belgians soldiered on as their numbers steadily dwindled.
Fabrice N’Sakala and Proto were sent off before the final whistle at a freezing Karaiskaki Stadium.
Alejandro Dominguez scored an injury time penalty seconds before the game ended, with Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic wearing the goalkeeper’s yellow jersey.
“We’ve had a great run in these six games,” Olympiakos coach Michel Gozalez said.
“I always say this and I really mean it. The credit for this win goes to my players,” he added. “You should have seen them celebrating in the dressing room. They really wanted this and they really deserved it.”
Anderlecht ended without a win in six games, and coach John Van den Brom complaining that Kouyate’s second booking turned the game.
“I believe what my player told me,” he said, referring to the disputed hand ball.
“We showed character tonight ... but it didn’t work out,” Anderlecht said. “But credit to Olympiakos. The best two teams in the group made it through.”