AEK holds onto league top spot

AEK goes into the new year as the Super League’s front-runner following a 2-0 win over visiting Thessaloniki soccer team PAOK last night. Defending champion Olympiakos overcame a stubborn Xanthi side for a 2-1 home win on Saturday to remain two points behind. Third-placed Panathinaikos earned a valuable 1-0 victory at Aris in Thessaloniki last night to remain three points behind AEK. AEK leads with 33 points from 14 games. Olympiakos is second with 31 points and Panathinaikos follows on 30. Argentinean Ismael Blanco opened the scoring for AEK in the 33rd minute and Brazilian Julio Cesar added his team’s second goal in the final minute of regular time. Athens club Panathinaikos emerged victorious at Aris with a solitary goal shortly before the halftime break from striker Dimitris Salpiggidis who snuck in a deflected low cross. On Saturday, strikers Lomana LuaLua and Darko Kovacevic scored a goal each to help Olympiakos beat Xanthi 2-1 at Karaiskaki Stadium. LuaLua took advantage of a misunderstanding in the Xanthi defense to put Olympiakos ahead in the 20th minute. But Xanthi leveled six minutes later when Tomasz Radzinski put away a rebound off goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. Serb striker Kovacevic regained the lead for Olympiakos with a header from a Vassilis Torosidis cross in the 59th minute. Xanthi could have leveled late in the game when the visitors were awarded a strongly disputed penalty kick for a Tassos Pantos challenge in the box that earned him a second yellow card and walking orders. Nikopolidis stretched impressively to save the penalty kick by Giorgos Barkoglou in the 83rd. In the round’s other games, played yesterday, it was: Atromitos-Veria, 1-0; Levadiakos-Asteras Tripoli, 0-0; Apollon Kalamaria-Iraklis, 1-1; Panionios-OFI, 1-3. On Saturday, Ergotelis and Larissa played out a scoreless draw.