NEWS

Olympiakos closes in on title

A hat trick from skipper Predrag Djordjevic led Olympiakos to a 4-1 victory at Xanthi yesterday that kept the defending champion two points ahead of AEK, its nearest challenger, with one round of play remaining in the Super League. In another of several high-scoring matches played yesterday – 30 goals in eight games – AEK pounded in the goals for a 4-0 win at PAOK. But the Athens club can only hope that Olympiakos slips up at home to Iraklis in next week’s last game and that it triumphs over visiting Asteras Tripolis to capture the title. A pending verdict from an international sports tribunal for the three points of a game involving Olympiakos and Apollon Kalamaria could also hand AEK the title. Apollon, that game’s victor, was deducted a point and Olympiakos was awarded three after the Thessaloniki team fielded an ineligible player. Panathinaikos dropped out of the title race despite defeating fourth-placed Aris 1-0 at home. A few hours before the game, a large number of Panathinaikos fans, overwhelmed by archrival Olympiakos’s domestic dominance over the past decade, staged a rally calling for the historic soccer club’s administration, led by wealthy businessman Yiannis Vardinoyiannis, to resign. Local media and police estimates of participation at the rally, which concluded outside Panathinaikos’s Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, ranged between 10,000 and 20,000 people. Minor incidents without injuries were reported. Playing at home, fifth-placed Asteras Tripolis suffered a late 2-1 defeat against relegation-threatened Levadiakos, now three points above the three-team relegation zone. Veria became the Super League’s first relegation victim following a 1-1 home draw against Atromitos, still not out of danger. Iraklis delivered a 5-2 thrashing to last-placed Apollon Kalamaria, which was also relegated, regardless of its appeal against the points deduction earlier in the season. Both Panionios and Larissa, now tied in sixth place two points behind Asteras, remained in contention for fifth place and a playoff berth with wins. Panionios won 2-1 at OFI Crete and Larissa beat visiting Ergotelis 3-2.