NEWS

Race for league title heating up

The battle for the Greek soccer league title took a dramatic turn last night as Olympiakos’s previously commanding lead was narrowed to one point with three rounds remaining after a 4-0 thrashing at third-placed AEK. Also, Panathinaikos rebounded for a 2-1 win over Panionios. The two results combined to bring the Super League’s top three clubs to within two points. Olympiakos leads with 61 points from 27 games. Panathinaikos and AEK follow with 60 and 59 points respectively. Brazilian Rivaldo was instrumental in AEK’s win over his former team, which rates as the Athens team’s biggest against Olympiakos in league play. He was involved in two of AEK’s four goals. Argentinean striker Ismael Blanco opened the scoring in the 10th minute for his 16th goal of the season to rank second in the top scorer’s list. Three minutes later, Edinho, set up by Rivaldo, scored for the fifth successive game to make it 2-0 for AEK. Striker Nikos Lyberopoulos fired in from long range to extend AEK’s lead to 3-0 in the 32nd minute. Midfielder Pantelis Kafes completed the win with a fourth goal in the 61st minute. «We still have a chance to win the title,» Rivaldo declared. AEK was front-runner for this season’s greater part until several weeks ago. Panathinaikos earned its three points after strikers Dimitris Papadopoulos and Dimitris Salpiggidis each converted penalties, in the 75th and 80th minutes respectively, to overturn a 1-0 deficit. Fourth-placed Aris triumphed 2-0 at Xanthi not long after ousting the same club in the Greek Cup’s quarterfinals. Newly promoted Asteras Tripolis overtook Panionios in fifth place after proving too strong for relegation-threatened Veria. Asteras won 2-0. In the round’s other games, it was: Ergotelis-Levadiakos, 2-1; Iraklis-OFI, 1-0; Larissa-Apollon Kalamaria, 2-1; and PAOK-Atromitos, 1-0.