PAOK keeps soccer league alive

Late equalizer prevents Olympiakos from opening an 11-point lead at the top By George Georgakopoulos

A late Stefanos Athanasiadis goal for PAOK denied Olympiakos a victory at Thessaloniki that would have virtually settled the championship from end-November.

The top-of-the table clash at Toumba on Sunday night ended at 1-1, after Athanasiadis’s tap-in cancelled out Rafik Djebbour’s first-half goal, to keep the distance Olympiakos has from PAOK at eight points.

The league’s top two scorers were on target in a game where Olympiakos outplayed its host and was eager to score a win that would mathematically see it finish the first half of the championship on top, with three games left to play.

“We should have won this game 4-0 or 5-0, our players will have to be careful,” warned Olympiakos vice-resident Savvas Theodoridis after the game.

In a weekend where none of Greece’s four most popular teams won, Panathinaikos lost 2-1 at Platanias and AEK remained bottom of the table with a 1-0 home loss to Levadiakos.

The Greens feel hard done by the referee in their game on Crete as he disallowed them a good goal as offside, awarded Platanias a penalty that television replays showed was a striker’s dive, and left Panathinaikos with 10 men through a harsh second yellow card to Zeca.

One of the Panathinaikos fans on Crete actually went to a police station and sued the referee, whom police sought to arrest, although the law forbids the arrest of referees for their performance.

“We have a mafia that is managing soccer,” said Panathinaikos president Yiannis Alafouzos after the game on Skai television.

Platanias returned to winning with new coach Angelos Anastasiadis, while Dimitris Kalaitzidis in the first match of his seventh stint on the Veria bench helped his club snatch a draw at Kerkyra, with a 1-1 score.

The big winners of the weekend were third-placed Asteras Tripolis, who leapfrogged over Panionios beating the Nea Smyrni club 2-1 at home, and fifth Atromitos, who scored an injury-time winner against Xanthi (1-0). PAS Giannina climbed to sixth defeating OFI Crete 1-0 at home.

On Monday Panthrakikos is hosting Aris.