A penalty from Vitolo, who had earlier missed from the spot, was enough to keep Panathinaikos FC's qualification hopes alive and usher ten-man NK Maribor towards the exit door.
With new coach Juan Ramón Rocha looking on in place of Jesualdo Ferreira, the hosts were thankful for Vitolo holding his nerve with 23 minutes remaining to defeat the Slovenian champions, who had Aleš Mejač dismissed. Tottenham Hotspur FC's point at S.S. Lazio means the Greens must beat the English side at White Hart Lane on 6 December if they are to go through.
With Panathinaikos failing to win a European fixture so far this season, and Maribor on a three-game losing streak away from home on the continent, it was no surprise that the first half failed to spark immediately.
Home keeper Orestis Karnezis's only action of the half required him to field a scuffed Robert Berić shot on the half-hour. Just two minutes before the half-time whistle, the game finally burst into life. Toché pounced on Agim Ibraimi's loose pass back to his goalkeeper, but Jasmin Handanovič made an outstanding save to deny the forward. Mejač then received a second yellow card for handling the ball 20 metres from goal and Toché was denied again by the Maribor keeper from the resulting free-kick.
With 54 minutes gone a Giourkas Seitaridis cross from the right hit the hand of Arghus, but Vitolo struck the left-hand post from the penalty spot. When Toché inadvertently blocked a goalbound effort from Bruno Fornaroli on the line it looked as if another night of frustration was in store for Panathinaikos. However, when Aleš Mertelj tripped Vitolo in the area, the midfielder bounced back and tucked the penalty just inside the post he had earlier struck, keeping his side's campaign alive.
© 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.