Greece 0-0 Ukraine: Stalemate In Athens As Visitors Leave Happier

The Yellow Blues will depart the Greek capital optimistic of securing a World Cup berth at home after a turgid encounter...

Greece have it all to do to secure a place in South Africa as Ukraine held them at home in tonight's first leg UEFA World Cup play-off.

Theofanis Gekas had the ball in the back of the net in the first half but his effort was ruled out for offside while Andriy Shevchenko went close for the visitors with a free kick.

Neither side really looked like scoring in what was a tight affair with few goalscoring opportunities.

Playing in front of an improved crowd in Athens it was the visitors who started the more lively with veteran Andriy Shevchenko involved in the best of their play.

The Dynamo Kiev star tested Tzorvas with a trademark free kick in the third minute which went straight at the keeper. He also went close ten minutes later with a similar effort which rolled by the post.

Greece, aiming to qualify for their first World Cup since USA '94, were cautious in the opening exchanges and it was left to captain Georgios Karagounis to rally his side into action.

Prolific marksman, Theofanis Gekas, almost added to his tally when he had the ball in the net just after the quarter hour mark. The Bayer Leverkusen man had crept into an offside position and his easy tap in was rendered meaningless.

On a difficult pitch in the Olympic Stadium there was little quality play to get excited about in the first half. Of the few decent passages of play it was the men in yellow shirts who provided them.

Ukraine defender, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, went on a mazy run in the 39th minute as he made a rare break up-field. He beat several Greek players but after doing the hard work he fired in a tame attempt which was easily blocked.
Greece 0-0 Ukraine Video

With the first half drawing to a close it was the hosts who almost broke the deadlock through dangerman Gekas.

Rising well, the forward got on the end of another good delivery from Karagounis to nod a first time header which was well anticipated by the acrobatic Pyatov between the sticks.

Greek coach, Otto Rehhagel, gave his side a stern talking to at half time and the hosts came out livelier with Giorgios Samaras the pick of their attacking threats.

The Celtic striker had an appeal for a penalty in the early stages waved away as although he was felled by Vasyl Kobin it was clear the challenge was outside the box and the French referee wasn't interested.

Rehhagel threw on Angelos Charisteas and Konstantinos Mitroglou in the hope that either the hero of Euro 2004 or the debutante could score a winner.

In the event neither could muster any real attacking threat on a night when genuine chances were at a premium.

Ukraine, who looked well organised and happy to settle for a draw, created half chances in the second 45 with Vasyl Kobin blasting several longe range shots which failed to threaten Tzorvas.

With ten minutes remaining the Greeks pushed men forward in search of a winner and it was Samaras who created a bit of space himself to fire in a powerful strike from 20 yards out which whistled over the bar.

As the game reached its conclusion the hosts almost stole a winner their play barely deserved with the final kick of the game through Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Launching himself to meet another fine free kick from Karagounis his header trickled by the post to leave the Greeks with an uphill task in Kiev on Wednesday night.

Patrick Reilly,