AEK back on top of the league

Needing greater effort than indicated by the final score, AEK regained the lead in the Super League with a 4-1 win at last-placed Cretan soccer club Ergotelis last night, after scoring three late goals. The Athens club broke clear with two injury-time goals from striker Nikos Lymberopoulos after Brazilian Gustavo Manduca had also scored twice, in the 29th and 74th minutes of play. The hosts had taken the lead in the 18th minute when Perica Ognjenovic tapped into an empty goalmouth. Olympiakos, which had joined AEK at the top last weekend after defeating its crosstown rival 1-0 in a riveting encounter, slipped two points behind in second place following a scoreless draw at midtable Larissa. AEK leads with 30 points from 13 games. Olympiakos is second with 28 and Panathinaikos, a 3-1 winner over visiting OFI, lies third on 27 points. Panathinaikos had to overcome early resistance from its Cretan opposition to take all three points. The hosts took an early lead in the sixth minute, when striker Vangelis Mantzios connected with a well-delivered low cross from the left from Austrian captain Andreas Ivanschitz. For a brief two minutes, OFI was back in the game with an equalizer from striker Joseph Nwafor, who hit the ball on the run in the 76th minute. Panathinaikos responded with two quick goals to secure its win. The home team regained the lead on 78 minutes with a deflected own goal from defender Pierre Issa that sneaked in through the legs of keeper Alexis Tzorvas. Striker Dimitris Salpiggidis sealed the win two minutes later with a header. The newly promoted provincial club Asteras Tripolis, currently fourth in the standings, continued its impressive run with a 1-0 home win against midtable Atromitos. Within touch of the league’s top three with a third of the season completed, Asteras, a rapid climber through the country’s soccer divisions in recent seasons, lies only three points behind Panathinaikos. Visiting Aris defeated Iraklis 2-0 in a clash between the crosstown Thessaloniki rivals. Also yesterday, Veria drew 1-1 with Panionios. In two games played Saturday, it was: PAOK-Levadiakos, 1-0; Xanthi-Apollon Kalamaria, 6-1.