Panathinaikos alone at the top

Exploiting a home draw by Olympiakos, Panathinaikos beat struggling Akratitos 3-1 yesterday to take sole possession of first place in the Greek first division soccer league. Stathis Stefanidis gave Akratitos the lead but Danish midfielder Jan Michaelsen, Nikos Lymberopoulos and an own goal by Petar Swetanov made it a comfortable victory for Panathinaikos. The Athens club now has 32 points at the top of the 16-team standings, two ahead of Olympiakos. It also gained the honor of «winter champion,» the unofficial title given to the league leader after the 15th round, which is the halfway stage in the season. With a single goal from Giorgos Georgiadis on Saturday, PAOK beat Ioannina 1-0. PAOK now shares second place with Olympiakos but the Piraeus team has a better goal difference. The action-free match was played in the northeastern town of Kavala, as punishment imposed on PAOK for crowd trouble. AEK played to a 1-1 draw against Panionios to retain fourth place with 26 points. AEK played without its star-striker Demis Nikolaidis, involved in an ongoing rift with the club’s controversial owner Makis Psomiadis. The 29-year-old international alleged he was assaulted by Psomiadis on Tuesday night and received threats against his life as the club boss personally checked up on players he suspected of staying out late. Nikolaidis filed a lawsuit against Psomiadis and said he would no longer participate in club training sessions or games as long as Psomiadis continued to control the club. In other games it was: OFI 2, Kallithea 1; Panachaiki 0, Ionikos 0; and Iraklis 4, Aris 0. On Saturday, Aegaleo beat Proodeftiki 1-0. Akratitos surprised Panathinaikos with a sixth-minute goal from a powerful shot from outside the area by Stefanidis. The visitors reacted swiftly and leveled with Michaelsen in the 14th. Lymberopoulos made it 2-1 off a perfect cross from Finnish winger Joonas Kolkka in the 22nd minute. Two minutes later, Bulgarian defender Swetanov unintentionally deflected a header by Michalis Constantinou. It was the last goal of the game, which ended 3-1, though both teams hit the bar. Xanthi maintained a tight defense to counter Olympiakos’s fierce attacking style, particularly in the second period. Playing at the Rizoupoli Stadium, its temporary home ground, Olympiakos again appeared to have problems in midfield due to the absence of injured French star Christian Karembeu and suspended Brazilian midfielder Ze Elias. Things got a little better for Olympiakos when midfielder Andreas Niniadis replaced defender Dimitris Mavrogennidis. On two occasions, Xanthi’s Slovakian keeper Jurai Bucek made key saves. Stelios Yiannacopoulos gave Olympiakos the lead with an overhead shot from just three meters in the 73rd after Bucek was unable to hold a shot from Lambros Houtos. But three minutes before the final whistle, 10,000 Olympiakos supporters were silenced when Stelios Sfakianakis headed in the equalizer off a cross from Yiannis Papadimitriou. (AP)

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