When Barnsley were relegated to League One last season, not many Panathinaikos fans would have paid any attention. However, the Tykes dropping out of the Championship triggered a clause in former Manchester United goalkeeper Luke Steele’s contract, and in a bizarre twist of fate he would end up securing a free transfer to the Greek giants.
On Wednesday night, Panathinaikos had a chance to go ahead of bitter rivals Olympiacos, but a 2-0 away defeat to in-form Atromitos has put any title challenge in doubt.
The home side had won three out of their last four games, but were still expected to fall to the Athens club. Panathinaikos, with the aid of Steele had won four on the bounce and went into the game joint on points with Olympiacos.
Steele would have hoped to have done better with the first goal, Brazilian Marcelinho racing through on goal after only nine minutes to slip the ball under the English ‘keeper.
If the first goal had upset him, he would have been deeply disappointed with the second. Facing a penalty from Javier Umbides, Steele went the right way, got his hand to the ball but could only turn it onto the inside of the post. The 30-year-old could only watch the ball bounce behind him and into the net.
Although they are still level on points with Olympiacos at the top of the table, the defeat could cost them dearly as their rivals now have two games in hand.
Panathinaikos will need to win all of their six remaining games and hope results elsewhere go their way. Finishing second in the Greek Super League means you go into a four-team play-off to decide the second participant in next season’s Champions League.
Steele was in great form when Panathinaikos beat Olympiakos 2-1 earlier in the season. His new side were beaten by Standard Liege in this year’s Champions League play-off. Now that he is more settled in his new country, what a transformation it would be if the former Barnsley man could swap Championship football for a place in the Champions League group stage.