Coach Fernando Santos endured a frustrating competitive debut as Greece opened their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Georgia.
Temuri Ketsbaia, returning to the country he once called home as a player and coach, watched on as Aleksandr Iashvili’s third-minute strike put the Georgians ahead in the Group F encounter.
The 2004 European champions struggled to create a goal threat until 18 minutes from the end when Nikos Spiropoulos salvaged a point with a searing volley.
The result increases the significance of Greece’s trip to Croatia on Tuesday, when Georgia play host to Israel.
Greece experienced an inauspicious start to their qualifying campaign when David Kvirkvelia played in Iashvili and the Karlsruher SC striker stole in behind the home defence before prodding a low finish through the legs of goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.
The hosts enjoyed plenty of possession but were reduced to long-range efforts. Spiropoulos and captain Giorgos Karagounis both tried their luck unsuccessfully before Dimitris Salpingidis roused the home crowd with a surging run that culminated in a zipping shot that flashed narrowly wide.
Centre-back Avraam Papadopoulos then went close with a 25-metre drive which Nukri Revishvili tipped over the crossbar just before half-time.
A lively start to the second period seemed to bode well for Greece with Fanis Gekas blazing a shot over the bar before Salpingidis narrowly failed to convert Giourkas Seitaridis’s cross in the 52nd minute.
Ketsbaia introduced FC Spartak Moskva’s exciting 17-year-old midfielder Jano Ananidze early in the second half but Greece’s pressure finally paid dividends when, after substitute Kostas Mitroglou’s back-heel was cleared off the line, left-back Spiropoulos scored with a volley.
Santos’s side pushed for a winner but Mitroglou volleyed over the bar from a difficult angle in the third minute of added time.
Courtesy of UEFA.com