Some two-legged ties are able to catch the imagination, producing great drama that goes right down to the last kick of the second match.
I’d love to be able to say that the clash between Motherwell and Panathinaikos in the third round of Champions League qualifying falls into that category, but alas, it offers nothing of the sort.
The tie looked like a mismatch on paper and so it proved on the pitch last Tuesday, when the Greeks travelled to Fir Park for the first leg and duly won with the sort of ease that superior sides often demonstrate in such assignments away from home in Europe.
Stuart McCall’s charges started with the fervour of a side making their Champions League debut, but from the moment Lazaros Christodoulopoulos’ free-kick found the net after 13 minutes, Panathinaikos were always in control and ran out 2-0 winners thanks to Charalampos Mavrias’ second-half strike.
Motherwell pressured without looking too threatening and the Greeks now have what appears to be an unassailable lead as they head into the second leg on Wednesday. In fact, the outcome seems so assured that you can file it under ‘formality’.
McCall certainly knows as much and given that his attempts to pile the pressure on Panathinaikos before the first leg failed – he tried to make out that the skint Greeks needed to win more than ‘Well and therefore had everything to lose – he is now resigned to defeat over two legs.
The odds compilers at bwin certainly agree, making Panathinaikos the incredibly strong 1/5 favourites to win the match, with the draw at 21/4 and Motherwell priced at a huge 21/2.
That could be 21/1 and it still wouldn’t tempt me. Motherwell, even by McCall’s own admission, struggled badly in their opening SPL match against newly-promoted Ross County on Saturday, bemoaning a ‘lack of spark’ in his team’s performance as they were held to a 0-0 draw in a match of very few chances. If they are struggling to create a chance at Victoria Park in Dingwall, what chance do they have in Athens’ Olympic Stadium?
Panathinaikos have lost just three of their last 29 home games in all competitions and have too much about them to let the relatively limited Motherwell back into this tie. Led by stalwarts of the Greece national team in Giorgos Seitaridis and Konstantinos Katsouranis, the Greens have too much nous and experience at this level and will see the job through with minimum fuss.
But that 1/5 isn’t worth getting stuck into, so instead take the 21/20 that Panathinaikos win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0. Only once in the last 29 games home and away has a Panathinaikos match seen four or more goals and with Motherwell unlikely to score, I don’t see the Greeks having the inclination to really go for the throat given they already have a healthy lead.
As such, that 21/20 is a cracking odds-against shout in a match that is a home banker.
Recommended bet: Panathinaikos to win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 @ 21/20
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