Football: The scoreline suggests a comfortable win, but for a short time in the second half Tottenham looked to be flirting perilously with a first-round exit from the competition that their manager Andre Villas-Boas won with Porto in 2011.
The north Londoners led at half-time, thanks to Emmanuel Adebayor's cool finish, but were caught cold midway through the second half when Zeca equalised for the visitors against the run of play.
Just as Spurs seemed to be losing their heads under the Greek onslaught cooler ones prevailed with Clint Dempsey, then the in-form Jermain Defoe, breaching the visiting goal in the last 15 minutes to prove the difference.
Tottenham qualify for the Europa League knockout stage as group runners-up, with Lazio topping the group after a comfortable win against Maribor.
Aside from an uncomfortable 20 minutes in the second half, Spurs always looked likely to join the Italians in the next round.
Unlike former manager Harry Redknapp, who treated the Europa League with disdain, Villas-Boas clearly values the tournament, having won it with Porto, and his enthusiasm seemed to have rubbed off on the home support who came out in their droves.
Only a smattering of empty seats remained at kick-off and the home contingent of the 32,554 present made their voices heard early on, goading Chelsea for their early exit from the Champions League last night.
In truth, there was little for them to get excited about in the opening exchanges, with the first shot on goal from either side not coming until the 18th minute when Kyle Walker drove a free kick from the edge of the area straight into the wall.
The visitors had a golden chance to take the lead on 22 minutes. Giourkas Seitaridis swung in a low free kick which found Touche loitering in the area. As Tottenham's defenders looked over at the assistant referee for an offside flag, the Spanish striker found space to meet Seitaridis's ball but he could only fire a half volley straight into the hands of Friedel.
Tottenham, who went into the match off the back of a trio of wins over West Ham, Liverpool and Fulham, sported four changes from the side that swept aside the Cottagers last weekend. Friedel was making his first appearance for a month, while Villas-Boas also recalled Walker, Adebayor and midfielder Tom Carroll. Panathinaikos were without the services of former Arsenal winger Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, who failed to overcome a hamstring injury.
Tottenham took the lead on 29 minutes, Adebayor beating the offside trap to latch onto Dempsey's simple through ball before sliding past Orestis Karnezis for only his second goal of the season.
The goal meant that the Greeks now needed two goals to qualify, a reality that should have brought the visitors out of their shell and improved the game as a spectacle.
A few speculative efforts aside, though, Panathinaikos failed to threaten Friedel's goal and it was Spurs who came closer to extended their lead on 37 minutes when Defoe seized upon a loose ball in the visiting box but could only blaze well over the bar after a sharp turn.
A minute before the break Jan Vertonghen rose highest to Walker's corner but headed well wide.
The home side stayed in control in the initial stages after the interval and nearly doubled their lead on 49 minutes. Dempsey again was the provider, the US forward slipping in Aaron Lennon, the diminutive winger driving into the area before firing a low drive with his left foot. His effort beat Karnezis all ends up but cannoned off the post, across the face of the Panathinaikos goal and away to safety.
It seemed like Tottenham would win easily, but in a flash the visitors were level. Nikos Spyropoulos swung in a cross from the left. It evaded several Spurs defender and was met with force by Zeca who powered a header beyond Friedel, sparking jubilant scenes in the corner of White Hart Lane which was housing the visiting support.
At odds with the rest of the match, Tottenham were suddenly on the back foot. The Greeks had a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away by Polish referee Pawel Gil. Nonetheless they continued to come forward and Tottenham, who had previously looked composed on the ball, started to give it away cheaply.
Villas-Boas, sensing a first round exit the like of which his fans had, barely an hour earlier, goaded Chelsea over, began prowling nervously along the touchline.
Panathinaikos, who had swapped Pape Sow for Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, would again go close on 70 minutes, a high ball causing confusion in the Spurs before Toche scuffed an effort that trickled inches wide of Friedel's goal.
Villas-Boas sensed the need to act in order to halt his side's slide. Off came the hardworking Tom Carroll and on came Moussa Dembele, with Villas-Boas perhaps keen to give the Greeks, who were playing a high pressing game, something to think about defensively.
Within seconds of Dembele's introduction, Spurs had retaken the lead. A Sandro run down the right flank was halted illegally and, from the resulting free kick, Walker crossed for Dempsey, who rose highest to head off the bar and in. The ball appeared to come back off the woodwork and onto Karnezis, with the visiting keeper likely to be awarded the own goal when Uefa evaluate the footage.
Defoe put the result beyond any doubt seven minutes later, the England striker timing his run perfectly to race onto Lennon's pass before lofting over the onrushing Karnezis.
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