Thursday February 16 2012
Europa League: Udinese PAOK goalless

It’s all square between Udinese and PAOK at the midway stage of their Europa League clash, as the Zebrette failed to break through in the first leg in Udine.

Francesco Guidolin went into this European Round of 32 knockout match without Mauricio Isla - out for the rest of the season with a knee injury or Antonio Di Natale - sitting out with a stress fracture of his foot.

To face Greek side PAOK, Giovanni Pasquale came in for Isla whilst Antonio Floro Flores deputised in attack for Di Natale, whilst otherwise, Guidolin named a full-strength outfit.

These two clubs last met 11 years ago in the UEFA Cup Second Round, where PAOK emerged victorious after a two-legged affair. Amazingly, Giampiero Pinzi played in that game too, as did PAOK’s current sporting director, Pantelis Konstantinidis.

PAOK fans dominated the atmosphere in this encounter, completely filling the Stadio Friuli’s Curva Sud and outnumbering the scattered Udinese crowd.

Played in -2.5 degree temperatures, the Zebrette had the better of the earlier passages of play, pressing for an early goal, but lacking a final cutting edge to their efforts.

Floro Flores tested goalkeeper Dario Kresic with a couple of efforts, whilst Michele Pazienza also found himself pushing forward with a shot from outside the penalty box. Mehdi Benatia also tried his luck from long range soon after that.

The Greeks then countered with a couple of chances themselves at the other end, Kostas Stafylidis and Giorgos Fotakis both pulling shots wide.

Floro Flores tried to beat Kresic from distance, only to see his effort bounce into the ‘keeper’s hands, but a minute later, the Croatian needed two attempts to keep hold of a Pablo Armero effort from the left.

Soon after that, Danilo has an effort blocked. Almin Abdi also had a go, but the half ended goalless.

The second period began as the first ended, with Udinese earning quick corners, with Danilo again forcing a save, before Floro Flores also again missed the target.

Later in the half, both Benatia and Armero also had half-attempts at the goal, whilst the final section of the game played out with numerous corners to the Zebrette coming to very little.

Dusan Basta forced a stretched effort from Kresic as the encounter approached 90 minutes, with the midfielder surprising the 28-year-old with a quick shot.

Ultimately, though, Udinese could not find a way through, handing the advantage to PAOK for the second leg next week.

Udinese 0-0 PAOK

Udinese: Handanovic; Benatia, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Abdi, Pazienza, Pinzi (Fabbrini 57), Pasquale; Floro Flores, Armero

PAOK: Kresic; Sznaucner, Cirillo, Malezas, Stafylidis; Garcia; Lazar, Fotakis; Salpingidis, Athanasiadis (Giannou 76), Georgiadis (Lino 84)

Ref: Alberto UNDIANO (ESP)

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