ATHENS (Reuters) - An inspired Roberto gained sweet revenge on former club Benfica by helping Olympiakos Piraeus earn three precious points in a 1-0 Champions League win on Tuesday.
The Spanish goalkeeper, who left Benfica under a cloud in 2011 after just one season, was the difference between the Group C opponents, making a string of superb saves as the Greek champions held on for victory courtesy of Kostas Manolas’s first-half header.
“Roberto was something greater than a saint tonight, maybe only the Pope is more saintly,” said delighted Olympiakos coach Michel, who ran across the pitch to congratulate his goalkeeper at the final whistle.
“He had a difficult time at Benfica and sometimes football is unjust like that, then at the next minute you are vindicated, and I believe that is the case with Roberto. He proved his worth with his performance tonight, he really was a tower of strength. It has earned him an invitation to my house this week for dinner.”
The Greek champions rode their luck against their Portuguese opponents after taking a 13th-minute lead against the run of play when Greece defender Manolas rose unchallenged to power home a header from Jose Holebas’s inch-perfect set-piece.
Benfica enjoyed a wealth of possession throughout the match but could not find a way past Roberto.
Within the first eight minutes the Spaniard had denied Oscar Cardozo with a low diving save before scampering off his line to block Lazar Markovic’s goal-bound effort moments later.
He saved from Markovic again in the second half as well as left-back Silvio and substitute Filip Djuricic late on.
Olympiakos have taken a grip on second spot after collecting seven points from four matches.
Michel’s team are now three points clear of third-placed Benfica with leaders Paris St Germain on 10 points with two matches remaining.
“We are in a great position now in the group. It’s simple, we need three points from our next two matches so we are optimistic about our progression to the knockout stages,” Michel said.
Michel’s opposite number Jorge Jesus was understandably deflated after seeing his team beaten after dominating for long spells and creating the clearer scoring chances.
“It was not a fair result tonight at all for us, we could have scored many goals and Olympiakos have won from just two corners against us over two matches,” he said, referring to the 1-1 draw between the sides on October 23.
“Roberto was the decisive player, he produced some unbelievable saves.”
In the next round of matches on November 27, Olympiakos travel to France to play PSG and Benfica go to Anderlecht.
Editing by Josh Reich