Anorthosis hold Inter in thriller
Cypriot minnows Anorthosis Famagusta twice came from behind to tame Italian giants Inter Milan in a thrilling 3-3 draw in this action-packed Group B UEFA Champions League game here Tuesday.
Anorthosis showed dogged determination and enjoyed a large slice of lady luck against their more illustrious opponents who will be wondering how they let three points slip from their grasp. The Cypriots earned a precious point that still keeps them on course to be one of the smallest clubs ever to reach the last 16 in this competition.
Inter took an early lead through striker Mario Balotelli who slotted home on 13 minutes after keeper Arian Beqaj failed to hold a stinging Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck from 35 yards. Anorthosis drew level on the half hour following a poor mistake from Argentine defender Nicolas Burdisso whose poor back header left keeper Julio Cesar stranded enabling Cedric Bardon to stroke the ball into an empty net.
Inter still made most of the running and looked the most likely side to score as they attacked with purpose and intent. FIFA World Cup™ winner Marco Materazzi rose above the crowd from a corner and headed at Beqaj who fumbled the ball as it slipped through his legs as the half-time whistle beckoned.
The home side looked to be heading towards the interval 2-1 in arrears when substitute Georgios Panagi - one of only three Cypriots on the field - also scored with a header from a corner. Panagi had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes before his hero act.
And the goals didn't stop there. Anorthosis came out reinvigored in the second half and took a shock lead when Greek forward Nicos Frousos lost his marker in the box to strike a low shot into the bottom corner to put his side in dreamland.
Inter manager Jose Mourinho decided his team needed a radical shake up and made three substitutions all at once on 57 minutes as his team lost their way. And it was one of those substitutes, Julio Cruz, who saved Inter's blushes with an equaliser ten minutes from time. Another corner, another header.
The result was achieved without Anorthosis two essential figures central defender Traianos Dellas - a hero for Greece in their stunning UEFA EURO 2004 success - and veteran Brazilian playmaker Savio.
Debutants Anorthosis are the first Cypriot team to host a Champions League game and Nicosia's GSP stadium - their home stadium does not meet UEFA requirements - was packed to near capacity for this game.The refugee club from Famagusta enjoyed vocal support through out the game which will undoubtedly become part of Cyprus football folklore.
And an almighty cheer greeted the players when the final whistle blew. Anorthosis must now believe they can get a result against Werder Bremen at home in their next game. Few would bet against them.