Salpigidis the hero for Greece
Dimitris Salpigidis fired Greece to the 2010 World Cup finals with the only goal against Ukraine.
Last Updated: 18/11/09 8:36pm
Dimitris Salpigidis fired Greece to the 2010 World Cup finals with the only goal of their play-off victory against Ukraine.
Salpigidis broke the deadlock at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk in the 31st minute as he latched onto a great pass from Giorgos Samaras to finish superbly beyond home goalkeeper Andrei Piatov.
Opposite number Alexandros Tzorvas then came to the fore as he made a string of fine saves in the second half as Alexei Mikhailichenko's side penned the Greeks back but could not break through.
It is the first time Greece, the 2004 European champions, have qualified for a World Cup since 1994 in the United States.
Ukraine had the advantage going into the game after they held Greece to a goalless draw in Saturday's first leg in Athens, and the hosts began brightly amid driving rain.
And they should have been ahead after seven minutes when Andrey Shevchenko blazed wastefully over the crossbar with the goal gaping as he followed up Oleksandr Aliyev's shot.
Greece responded through Samaras, who headed narrowly over from Giorgos Karagounis's right-wing free-kick.
The hosts continued to push forward and Aliyev's free-kick was brilliantly saved by Greek goalkeeper Tzorvas.
In keeping with the pattern of the match, it was Greece's turn to go forward next and the visitors missed a golden chance to score a minute later when Salpigidis miskicked with only the keeper to beat after neat interplay down the left involving Angelos Charisteas and Nikos Spiropoulos.
Salpigidis, who worked tirelessly down the right, atoned for his error in the 31st minute, latching on to Samaras' sublime pass and slipping a low shot past Piatov and into the bottom corner.
Having held on to their lead comfortably until half-time, Greece found themselves on the back foot in the second period as Ukraine pushed for an equaliser.
Each time the hosts threatened, though, they were denied by Tzorvas, the Panathinaikos keeper making smart saves from Aliyev's free-kick and Shevchenko's shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Otto Rehhagel introduced Theofanis Gekas, top scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, for Samaras just after the hour mark in an effort to refresh his frontline, but it was Ukraine who continued to press forward.
For all their neat passing, however, there was little penetration from the hosts and Gekas should have done better when he was sent clear by Spiropoulos's long ball on the counter.
The Bayer Leverkusen man inexplicably opted to slow down and try to turn the last defender and the ball got caught under his feet and the chance was gone.
Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, a peripheral figure in the Ukraine midfield, passed up a good chance to score with just three minutes left, blazing over when presented with time and space 18 yards from goal.
And there was still time for Tzorvas to make another diving save from Yevgev Seleznov as Greece held firm to seal their place in South Africa.