Apollon followed Aris to the second division and Xanthi will contest a relegation play-off, as the end of the regular season of the Super League on Sunday produced predictable results that also included defeats for PAOK and Panathinaikos.
A late Javier Saviola goal sent Apollon Smyrnis back to the Football League just one year after its promotion to the top flight, although the team of manager Lawrie Sanchez challenged the champion all the way at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium and nearly spoiled the title fiesta of OIympiakos that followed the Reds’ 1-0 win.
Apollon dropped because the other teams behind it at the table, Veria and Xanthi, scored home wins to climb above the Athens team. Veria defeated Asteras Tripolis 1-0 and Xanthi downed 10-man Panathinaikos 3-1. The Thrace club will now have to wait until June to face the team to finish third at the second-division play-offs for its survival, while its striker Esteban Solari was the league’s top scorer with 16 goals.
The Asteras loss meant that PAOK, Panathinaikos and Atromitos will all start the play-off mini league for Greece’s second spot in the Champions League on the same number of points (two), while Asteras will start with no points.
PAOK lost the advantage it had over Atromitos and Panathinaikos as it went down 3-2 at Levadiakos, three days ahead of its priority game, the cup semifinal against Olympiakos in Thessaloniki. PAOK finished the regular season in second, 17 points behind Olympiakos and three ahead of Atromitos and Panathinaikos.
Atromitos won 3-1 at Panthrakikos to finish third, level on points with Panathinaikos. The play-offs will start on April 30.
In other games Ergotelis beat Kalloni Lesvou 3-0, Panetolikos downed OFI Crete 1-0 and Panionios shared a 0-0 draw with Platanias. Aris’s farewell game in the Super League was a 0-0 home draw with PAS Giannina.