FIFA World Cup Qualifying Europe Play-Off: Romania 1 Greece 1 (agg 2-4)
By Football News
Greece booked their place at their third FIFA World Cup finals as a 1-1 draw saw them beat Romania 4-2 on aggregate.
After arriving in Bucharest with a 3-1 lead from the first leg, Greece were able to stretch their advantage as Konstantinos Mitroglou netted in the 23rd minute on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old timed his run perfectly to reach a Vasilis Torosidis pass and finish low into the bottom corner from 15 yards for his third goal in the tie and fifth goal in qualifying overall.
Alexandros Tziolis' unfortunate own goal 10 minutes into the second half gave the hosts hope, but Fernando Santos' side were able to hold on and secure their passage to Brazil 2014.
The draw extends Greece's unbeaten run to eight matches and sees them qualify for consecutive World Cup finals for the first time.
Victor Piturca made four changes to his side in an attempt to claw back the two-goal deficit from the first leg, with captain Vlad Chiriches one of those brought in despite suffering with a broken nose.
Greece made just one alteration from the clash in Athens, and that was an enforced one as Giorgos Karagounis replaced the suspended Kostas Katsouranis.
Romania started at a high tempo to try and get themselves an early goal but their finishing lacked accuracy.
Gabriel Torje went closest with a long-range effort in the sixth minute, as the Espanyol midfielder skipped in from the right before sending his left-foot shot wide.
Ciprian Tatarusanu - starting in the hosts’ goal in place of Bogdan Lobont - was called into action to deny Jose Holebas in the 17th minute but he could nothing about Mitroglou's opener five minutes later.
The Olympiacos forward broke the offside trap to collect a pass from Torosidis, and calmly fired home to extend Greece's aggregate lead.
After wasting chances towards the end of the first half, Romania were soon back into the tie after the break, although it took a huge slice of luck to give them a glimmer of hope.
Some neat build-up play ended with Ovidiu Hoban rolling a ball inside from the edge of the penalty area, and Torosidis' clearance struck Tziolis and looped into the top corner.
Alexandru Maxim threatened to narrow the deficit even further in the closing 20 minutes, but resilient defending from Greece ensured their progression.