Panathinaikos moves to top

Celebrating its centennial anniversary yesterday, the historic Athens club Panathinaikos became the new leader in the Greek Super League on Sunday after being the only team among the soccer competition’s top three to emerge victorious in the 19th round of play, or almost two-thirds of the way into the season. Panathinaikos, which was founded on February 3, 1908, overcame a stubborn Asteras Tripolis, the season’s surprise team, for a 2-0 home victory following goals that came relatively late. AEK, the previous league leader, suffered a 3-2 home defeat against midtable Panionios, after trailing 3-0, to drop to second place. Panathinaikos now leads with 43 points, one point ahead of second-placed AEK, which has held top spot for most of the season. Olympiakos, preparing to meet English powerhouse Chelsea later this month in the Champions League for a place in the quarterfinals, slipped from second to third with 41 points after being stunned 1-0 away at relegation-threatened Thessaloniki club Apollon Kalamaria. Panathinaikos had to wait until the 76th minute to breach the Asteras Tripolis defense. A cross from Greece international Giorgos Karagounis was delightfully headed by substitute Dame N’Doye for the encounter’s opening goal. Seven minutes later, the visitors, who had threatened to score several times, were left with 10 men when Horacio Cardozo, expressing his team’s frustration, was shown a second yellow card for a wild lunge at Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Salpigidis. The latter was credited with Panathinaikos’s second, two minutes from time, when the ball bounced off the striker’s knee and into the net following a goalmouth scramble. Aris moved up to fourth with a comfortable 2-0 win at home against bottom-placed Ergotelis. Defender Avraam Papadopoulos opened from the penalty spot on 22 minutes and Spaniard Felipe Sanson made it 2-0 in the 59th. In the round’s other games, it was: Veria-Iraklis, 1-2; OFI-PAOK, 2-0; Atromitos-Xanthi, 2-3; Levadiakos-Larissa, 0-1.