Standard Liège faced Panathinaikos last night in the third round of the Champions League qualifiers, and the road to a much desired place in the group stages remains open to both sides after a 0-0 draw.
From the get-go, Standard proved to want the qualification badly, attacking the Greeks, who were still in the holiday mood. Despite dominating the first half, creating many chances out of Panathinaikos losing the ball, Standard could not translate that dominance in efficiency. At the end of the first half, Standard could have, and should have been given a penalty, but the referee decided the foul on Ezekiel happened just outside the penalty area. And so the teams went into the break still levelled.
Panathinaikos’ manager must have taken out the half-time hairdryer, for the Greek side came out a changed team. More confident in possession, they threatened Kawashima right away. A bit later, Panathinaikos hit the bar. Standard had disappeared from the game, and seemed to be ripe for the picking.
Towards the end of the game, we had still seen no goals, but we did see many yellow cards. Between the 75th and the 80th minute, four cards were given, sucking the enthusiasm out of the match. As time was ticking away, Standard striker Ezekiel, who announced his departure to Qatar immediately after the game, charged for goal, desperate to grant his now former club a lost good memory of him, but he couldn’t break through a tough defence.
The whistle blew, and the game was over, ending in a scoreless draw. The next round is still within the reach of both teams, but whether Standard will be able to withstand the Greek conditions and fans remains to be seen.