Francesco Guidolin’s side could not break the deadlock as the Greek outfit hold out for a draw
Udinese could not capitalise on a number of chances as they were held to a 0-0 draw with PAOK in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash at the Stadio Friuli on Thursday evening.
The hosts had much of the play but were unable to break through the resilient Greek visitors, and the tie remains evenly poised ahead of the return next week.
The home side started the game brightly and came close to taking the lead in the sixth minute when Antonio Floro Flores crossed the ball from the right into the PAOK box. The defence cleared the danger but only as far as Almen Abdi, who hit a volley on the bounce, and the ball struck the post before travelling across the entire goalmouth and then out at the other side.
The Bianconeri continued to press and came close three minutes later when Giampiero Pinzi chipped a perfectly weighted pass over the last man, where Floro flores controlled well before attempting to lob Dario Kresic. Luckily for PAOK, the Croatian stopper reached high to prevent the ball from beating him.
Boloni’s men seemed to settle after the initial scares but struggled to create any real openings inside the opening 25 minutes. The hosts may have been missing their talisman Antonio Di Natale, but Floro Flores continued to look threatening throughout the half.
PAOK had their best chance just before the half-hour mark when Uruguayan midfielder Pablo Garcia’s 30-yard volley dipped just over the crossbar. Possession was fairly even but it was Guidolin’s men that continued to create chances as the period drew to a close.
It didn’t take long for Kresic to be called on again and three minutes after the second half kicked off. The visiting keeper saved well from an Udinese header, and Floro Flores had a good chance soon afterwards but the striker wasted the opportunity when he shot wildly across goal.
The Greek outfit could hardly get the ball into the opposition half and looked to be struggling under the Bianconeri pressure.
But they found composure as the half progressed, They maintained players behind the ball, making it difficult for Udinese to create any real goalscoring opportunities as the clock ticked down. The home side continued to press but the Greek side held on for a valuable draw.
The stalemate means Udinese travel to Greece in the return leg next Thursday, with PAOK considered slight favourites to progress.