Chesterfield's Liam Pitchford secures memorable Euro win
Liam Pitchford notched a memorable victory over world No 27 Panagiotis Gionis as England came back from the brink of defeat to beat Greece 3-2 in a European Championships qualifying tie.
Pitchford, currently ranked 49 in the world, mixed patience with attacking brilliance against an experienced opponent well known for his defensive quality.
In a high-class match in front of a 600-strong crowd in Stoke, the Chesterfield athlete prevailed 3-1 (6-11, 13-11, 13-11, 13-11).
That levelled the best-of-five overall tie at 2-2, and Paul Drinkhall then completed overall victory with a 3-2 (11-9, 5-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5) defeat of Konstantinos Papageorgiou.
It had looked a lot less rosy for England Leopards earlier in the evening when Pitchford was beaten 3-2 (11-13, 10-12, 11-3, 11-5, 13-11) by Papageorgiou and Drinkhall went down 3-0 (11-9, 12-10, 13-11) to Gionis as the visitors led 2-0.
And their 16-year-old rising star Ioannis Sgouropoulos had a chance to complete a 3-0 overall victory when he held two match points at 10-8 up in the deciding set against Sam Walker.
But Walker recovered, a run of four points sealing it 3-2 (7-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 12-10) and keeping England in it.
Pitchford said: “It wasn’t looking so good at one point and I don’t think any of us started well. I didn’t feel I was playing like I could in the first match, but I was disappointed to lose.
“We knew when Sam turned it around and won we were still in the game.
“Against Gionis, I tried too much to kill him in the first set, then I changed it and played more patiently and waited for my opportunities. When I felt it was there to attack, I attacked.
“It was important to win that match obviously, and then Paul came through at the end. That’s what we’re all about - fighting, supporting and never giving in.
“It was a team performance, we played for each other and fought for each other.
“It’s not the best we’ve played, but we won and that’s the main thing.”
England next travel to Netherlands later this month, before the reverse fixture in Greece in January and the home match against the Dutch in March.
The country which tops the group will be seeded into the top division for next year’s European Team Championships.