Goalkeeper Nikopolidis denies Real Madrid

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ATHENS, Nov 7 (Reuters) A fine performance by veteran Olympiakos goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis denied Real Madrid the win that would have effectively put them through to the knockout stage of this season's Champions League.

The 36-year-old produced three top-class saves to thwart yesterday Robinho and Wesley Sneijder twice to hold Real to a 0-0 draw.

Real also struck the woodwork twice with Mahamadou Diarra hitting the post and Ruud van Nistelrooy the bar.

Real still top Group C with eight points while Olympiakos, who now have five points, also retain realistic hopes of reaching the next phase.

Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis said: ''From now on we will start calculating. This point is very important for our future in the group. The remaining two encounters are very important.

''I am happy with the way we got a point in spite of all the injuries and suspensions.'' Real coach Bernd Schuster said: ''We would have liked to have sealed our qualification tonight. We dropped two points here and I think that we deserved all three because we created many chances and were very patient.'' In spite of the lack of goals, there was plenty of excitement as both teams adopted the same cavalier spirit that lit up Real's 4-2 win in the corresponding game in Madrid.

Real dominated the opening 45 minutes and were unlucky not to have gone ahead.

Robinho, who scored twice in Madrid, had the first chance in the 14th minute when he got behind the defence. Rather than square the ball to van Nistelrooy, however, he took a shot himself, bringing a good save out of Nikopolidis.

Four minutes later the Greece goalkeeper stuck out a leg to deny Sneijder then Diarra's flick from a corner hit the post and van Nistelrooy's lob over Nikopolidis came back off the bar.

Nikopolidis had to react sharply again in the second half to deny Sneijder a second time while Lomana LuaLua went close twice at the other end.

Reuters AB RN0935

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