PIRAEUS, Greece (AP) — Kostas Manolas scored the lone goal early as Olympiakos goalkeeper Roberto held off Benfica for an unlikely 1-0 win to boost the Greeks’ chances of reaching the Champions League knockout stages Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Manolas ran through the defense to meet a corner from Jose Holebas, and headed the ball past Benfica goalkeeper Artur in the 13th minute for the Group C winner.
Olympiakos lost talented winger Vladimir Weiss to a late training injury and the Portuguese club heavily dominated possession and scoring chances — all thwarted by Roberto, who saved nine shots on goal.
The Spaniard made up for his team’s ragged defense, and a minute after the break jerked his right leg to intercept an effort from Lazar Markovic who looked certain to score.
Substitute Filip Djuricic was inches away from an equalizer in the 87th minute, when Roberto again slid across the goal to deny him and end the exasperating night of Benfica.
As the match ended Roberto — a former Benfica player — fell to the ground and hammered his fist into the turf before being hugged by teammates and Spanish coach Michel Gonzalez.
“There was no feeling of revenge or anything like that. It was just a great night. The fans were chanting support for me in Spanish. It was amazing,” Roberto said.
“It was a real Champions League night and it couldn’t have ended in a better way, with a win for the fans.”
Tuesday’s results saw Olympiakos pull three points ahead of Benfica, with seven from four matches, while Paris Saint-Germain leads the group with 10.
Coach Gonzalez said the win put qualification firmly in his team’s hands.
“It’s hard to describe the feelings I have after this game,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the goalkeepers who are the standout players, and that is certainly the case tonight. It’s pretty clear who our savior was.”
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus spent most of the evening pacing up and down the sidelines, throwing up his arms in disbelief every time Roberto stopped his players scoring.
“We did have the advantage tonight, but now we are dependent on any mistake Olympiakos might make,” he said, adding his own tribute to the Olympiakos goalkeeper.
“He stopped us decisively five or six times in the game, and we was the player who decided the match. He proved himself to be a massive player.”