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Greece back in the hunt, says Rehhagel

© Reuters 2002

By Daniel Howden
ATHENS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Coach Otto Rehhagel declared Greece to be back in the hunt for Euro 2004 qualification after beating Armenia 2-0 in their Group Six match on Wednesday.

"This was an extremely important win for our bid to qualify for the finals in 2004," said the German coach.

After losing their opening fixtures at home to Spain and away to Ukraine, Greece bounced back with two goals from Demis Nikolaidis to take their first points and lift themselves off the foot of the group. "We got the ideal start with the early goal which is just what we needed," said Rehhagel.

Vassilis Tsartas floated a second minute free kick over the wall for Nikolaidis to glance in a header. Armenia coach Oscar Lopez criticised the match officials for allowing the goal to stand, complaining that smoke from a flare had distracted his defence.

"The goal should never have counted. The penalty area was full of smoke from the flare," complained Lopez.

Rehhagel chided his players for not driving home their superiority earlier after the first goal.

"We had chances to score again and kill the game after the first goal but we didn't take them and had to endure a period of uncertainty when Armenia created chances of their own and could have equalised."

The match remained tense until the 61st minute. Angelos Basinas robbed a defender on the edge of the box to feed Nikolaidis who chipped his second of the night over Roman Berezovsky in the Armenian goal.

Rehhagel, the former Bayern Munich coach, made three changes to the line up that lost to Ukraine on Saturday. He said of Wednesday's outcome: "It was a game we should have won and we won it."

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