Greece is 90-plus minutes away from a World Cup berth following an impressive 3-1 win over Romania in Athens on Friday, per The Irish Daily Mail's Philip Quinn on Twitter:
The highly-touted Greek defense—which conceded just four goals total over the course of 10 group matches—wasn't flawless, but an offensive explosion powered them to a vital win in the opening leg of the two nations' 2014 World Cup qualifying playoff.
Friday's match was thrilling from the outset as it took less than 15 minutes for Greece to jump ahead on the scoreboard. Kostas Mitroglou was the man of the moment as he buried a shot in the bottom right corner to open up the scoring.
The goal was set up by Dimitris Salpingidis, who would make another heroic play just minutes later.
Before Salpingidis' shining moment, Romania would respond brilliantly, equalizing within five minutes on a Bogdan Stancu header. Stancu's goal was made possible by a smooth cross from teammate Gabriel Torje.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the moment of elation was short-lived as Salpingidis turned out the play of the match just two minutes later, directing a superb ball from Vasilis Torosidis into the bottom right corner to give Greece the advantage for a second time.
After the scoring spree came to a halt, there was a flurry of yellow cards handed out as both sides began gauging the referee's limits and ultimately settling into the match.
In the second half, both squads would take turns generating scoring chances before Mitroglou finally put the match on ice with a left-footed strike in the 66th minute. Kostas Katsouranis assisted with a well-timed headed pass.
Trailing by two goals, Romania had no choice but to apply more pressure. But not surprisingly, they were unable to crack the code of the Greek defense and turned away time and again down the stretch.
Men of the Match: Dimitris Salpingidis and Kostas Mitroglou
Both Dimitris Salpingidis and Kostas Mitroglou were phenomenal for Greece on Friday, teaming up at the top of Greece's 4-3-3 lineup to wreak havoc on the Romanian defense.
Salpingidis was everywhere he needed to be, setting up Mitroglou for the opening goal and then making a splendid run into the box minutes later to provide the go-ahead score. Salpingidis was also able to make an impact without racking up a ton of shots. He made smart decisions throughout the match, connecting on nearly 80 percent of his pass attempts, per WhoScored.com, to make the most of his limited touches.
Meanwhile, Mitroglou delivered the daggers, scoring early and late to ensure Greece some breathing room as they get set to travel to Bucharest next week.
After Friday's sensational effort, all eyes will be on the striking duo in Tuesday's second leg.
The two sides will have three days off before gearing up for Tuesday's pivotal second leg at National Arena in Bucharest, Romania. The match is set for Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. GMT.
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