Battling Shamrock suffer PAOK loss
PAOK Salonika secured a 2-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers thanks to two moments of magic in their Europa League Group A clash at the Toumbas Stadium.
Costin Lazar's breathtaking 30-yard strike put PAOK in control in the 12th minute before Karl Sheppard headed the equaliser just after the break.
Vieirinha put the home side back in front with a spectacular 20-yard strike in the 63rd minute to condemn Rovers to their third straight defeat in the competition and earn PAOK their first win.
Lazar's stunning goal came after Shamrock failed to clear their lines from a corner. Dan Murray scuffed his clearance of Dorvalino Lino's outswinging corner and the ball fell at the feet of Lazar, who blasted the ball past Ryan Thompson from 30 yards as the goalkeeper remained rooted to the spot.
Billy Dennehy quickly established himself as Shamrock's biggest threat and he won and delivered the free-kick at the start of the second half which Sheppard headed into the back of Kostas Chalkias' net to level the score.
Dennehy almost equalised Lazar's early goal when he broke upfield in the 19th minute only for his powerful strike to miss everyone in the box and fly past the right post.
Lazar then had a penalty shot turned down when he was fouled by Ken Oman on the edge of the area after a clumsy challenge but referee Tony Asumaa waved play on. It was a huge slice of luck for Shamrock, who survived a final chance before the half-time whistle when Vieirinha was fouled 30 yards out, only for him to blast the resulting free-kick straight at Thompson.
After the break, it was Shamrock who immediately seized the initiative when Dennehy won a free-kick on the right side of the area and delivered a testing ball which found the unmarked Sheppard on the far post. The midfielder was unchallenged and climbed the highest to head home the equaliser, to the delight of the travelling fans.
Shamrock settled into the second half and started to absorb the pressure from PAOK more comfortably, but they created few chances themselves, and it took the home side another moment of brilliance to regain the lead, when Vladimir Ivic linked up with Vieirinha, who fired his right-footed shot into the top-left corner of goal just as Shamrock looked to be gaining a foothold in the game.
The score gave PAOK more impetus and they peppered Thompson with more shots on goal, but the Shamrock 'keeper was able to deny the Greek side their third. Dennehy almost helped Shamrock earn a draw in the dying seconds but Chalkias punched his inswinging corner to safety to seal the home win.