Bordeaux put themselves in the driving seat to advance to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League after claiming a narrow victory in the first leg of their last 16 tie at Olympiacos. Michael Ciani popped up with the only goal of the game on the stroke of the interval as the Greek side gave themselves a mountain to climb in the second leg on 17 March.
The winner was not without a whiff of controversy, however, coming as it did from a free-kick awarded by referee Howard Webb, but that will be of little concern for Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc who saw his side maintain their unbeaten record in this season's competition.
"We're happy to score away from home, though perhaps we could have scored a second, but at least we got the victory," Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc said after the game. "There are only a handful of clubs that have the experience of playing in the Champions League quarter-finals. Experience comes by playing matches."
Olof Mellberg almost opened the scoring for Olympiacos after just four minutes, the defender connecting well with Jesus Datolo's free-kick but unlucky to see his header sail the wrong side of the upright. Neither side did enough to claim the upper hand in the early exchanges, but Antonis Nikopolidis' palms were stung after 25 minutes when some neat Bordeaux approach play saw Fernando fire an effort straight at the home custodian.
A collision between Raul Bravo and Ieroklis Stoltidis gifted Bordeaux a chance to bag the opener after 36 minute, but Mellberg was on hand to mop up, flicking the ball clear of danger as Yoann Gourcuff looked to pull the trigger. Two minutes into stoppage time Webb awarded a free-kick against Lomana Lua Lua who was left frustrated by the decision, which was only heightened moments later when Gourcuff whipped in a wicked delivery and centre-half Ciani timed his run to perfection to nod home from six yards.
Gourcuff saw a free-kick charged down by the Olympiacos wall moments after the restart as the French side, who finished top of Group A to reach this stage, stayed on the front foot. Two minutes later the visitors saw an opening to go two goals clear spurned as Ciani headed over when unmarked from a corner kick.
Greeks lacking punch
The hosts were struggling to make any impact going forward and handed Matt Derbyshire a Champions League debut off the bench as they strived to turn the tide. Wendell screwed a shot wide of the target on 80 minutes as the visitors again looked the most likely to add to the scoring, but 60 seconds later Olympiacos went close. A long punt was controlled on the chest by Derbyshire, the Englishman laying the ball off for Lua Lua to drill in a low shot from the edge of the area that Cedric Carrasso just tipped wide.
Lua Lua chanced a shot from 20 yards with four minutes remaining, but Carrasso held on comfortably going down to his right. And the striker's personal duel with the Bordeaux goalkeeper continued when Lua Lua saw his looping header tipped away to safety. From the resulting corner, Vassilis Torosidis almost snatched an equaliser as his header beat Carrasso, but Marc Planus did his job well to hack the ball clear on the line. The hosts again almost scored when more frantic Bordeaux defending saw Fernando hack clear Stoltidis' header off the line.
When the ball was hoofed back into the danger zone, Ciani's attempted clearance spun high into the air, and although Enzo Maresca judged the flight of the ball to perfection to nod into the net, the referee ruled out the effort after Derbyshire impeded Carrasso in the melee.