NEWS

Olympiakos widens the gap

Defending champion Olympiakos took a major step toward retaining the Greek soccer league title yesterday with a 3-1 win at relegation-threatened Levadiakos after recovering from an early deficit. A day earlier, second-placed Panathinaikos was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Iraklis, a result that puts Olympiakos four points ahead with four rounds of play remaining. Last night, AEK – a previous league front-runner for the season’s greater part – won 1-0 at Apollon Kalamaria to keep alive its diminished title hopes. Olympiakos heads the standings with 61 points from 26 games. Panathinaikos follows with 57 points, and AEK is third with 56 points. The leader’s four-point lead, however, could be diminished if an appeal submitted to an international sports tribunal by bottom-placed Apollon Kalamaria proves successful. Kalamaria’s 1-0 win over Olympiakos was overturned by a Greek committee due to the fielding of an ineligible player. In yesterday’s game, Levadiakos striker Patrick Dimbala put his team ahead in the seventh minute. Olympiakos struck three times before the break, beginning in the 19th minute, when Luciano Galletti curled in a free kick. He also helped set up Olympiakos’s second goal, scored by Fernando Belluschi in the 32nd minute. Serb striker Darko Kovacevic put Olympiakos 3-1 ahead three minutes later. Fourth-placed Aris and midtable Larissa, widely regarded as two of the league’s most entertaining clubs this season, drew 1-1. Aris, impressive but inconsistent this season, lies 13 points behind third-placed AEK. Panionios joined Asteras Tripolis in fifth place with a 4-1 thrashing of the newly promoted club. OFI distanced itself from the relegation zone with a 2-0 home win over Xanthi. In the round’s other games, it was: Veria-PAOK, 0-0, and Atromitos-Ergotelis, 1-2. To be staged for the first time this season, teams placed second to fifth at the end of the normal season will enter playoffs to decide the Champions League and UEFA Cup places. The playoff games will be held between April 23 and May 14.