Croatian champions NK Rijeka will take an important away goal into the return leg of their UEFA Champions League Playoff tie next week after a 2-1 loss against Olympiacos in Greece tonight.
NK Rijeka stunned the 32,000 Olympiacos fans at the Karaiskakis Stadium near Athens thanks to a quality strike from their Brazilian striker Heber just before half-time before Olympiacos leveled the match 66th minute.
The home side created more chances in the opening half an hour of the match but could not find a way past Rijeka’s keeper Simon Sluga who made a couple of great saves to deny the Greeks.
The more Olympiacos got frustrated, the more Rijeka started to get into the match in what was an attacking and open first half.
With 61% possession in the first half and 4 shots to 2 on target, Olympiacos could not find a way through. Rijeka had a couple of attacks of their own in the first spell and would go ahead in the 42nd minute when Heber turned his man and fired into the corner of the net with his left foot.
The goal came at the perfect time for Rijeka who could regroup at the break.
Matjaž Kek’s men, led by Mate Males and Filip Bradaric in the midfield, looked organised at the start of the first half as Rijeka started to enjoy more possession.
Olympiacos always looked threatening and would finally equalise in the 66th minute when Odjidja met a cross inside the box and fired into the top corner to leave Sluga with no chance.
The goal and the increasingly vocal fans gave Olympiacos momentum as they pressed for the winner but finding a way through Rijeka’s defence proved difficult.
With 8 minutes remaining Rijeka went down to 10 men as Leonard Zuta was sent off for his second bookable offence. The Croatians could not manage to hold on with a man down and conceded in the 93rd minute when Romao headed home from close range.
The return leg will be played next Tuesday in Rijeka.