AEK toppled from top spot

AEK Athens suffered its first defeat of the season yesterday, losing to Ethnikos Asteras 2-0 and giving away its lead in Greece’s first division soccer league. AEK’s loss away enabled defending champion Olympiakos Piraeus to move to the top of the 14-team standings with 10 points from four games. AEK dropped to second place with nine points, one ahead of crosstown Panathinaikos. On Saturday, Olympiakos trounced Ionikos Nikea 5-0, and Panathinaikos thrashed Panachaiki Patras 8-0, with Croatian striker Goran Vlaovic grabbing five goals. AEK charged forward from kickoff, but its players made poor use of their scoring opportunities, particularly in the first period. In the 14th minute, Milan Pavlovic fouled Vassilis Lakis in the Ethnikos Asteras area but Vassilis Tsartas’s spot kick hit Christos Kiourkos’s left post. Demis Nikolaidis also hit the bar in the 39th and two minutes later, Christos Maladenis shot wide from three meters, with the keeper out of position. Kiourkos made a spectacular save to a shot by Theo Zagorakis in the 49th. In a counterattack by the hosts three minutes later, Theodoros Papadimitriou centered from the right and Giorgos Kontopoulos leaped high to beat keeper Ilias Atmatzidis and give his team the lead. In a desperate move, Portuguese coach Fernando Santos replaced defender Nikos Georgeas with striker Sotiris Constantinidis. But instead of leveling, the hosts made it 2-0 with Papadimitriou in another fast break in injury time. Saturday’s games for Olympiakos and Panathinaikos turned out to be good training for their Champions League clashes against Manchester United and Schalke, tomorrow and Wednesday, respectively. But Olympiakos’s victory was overshadowed by a finger injury suffered by keeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos, making his participation at Old Trafford doubtful. Alekos Alexandris gave his team the lead off a pass from Predrag Djordjevic in the 18th, repeating a move that clinched the Piraeus side’s 2-1 home win against France’s Lille in the Champions League last week. In the 53th, Liberian striker Zizi Roberts was fouled in Ionikos’s area and Djordjevic converted the penalty to make it 2-0. Ilias Poursanidis, who substituted Djordjevic, stretched it to 3-0 with a blistering shot from outside the box in the 71st. Eight minutes later, Gabriel Alvez made it 4-0 off a pass from French star Christian Karembeu. And Roberts closed the scoring two minutes before the end of the match. Panathinaikos’s striker Goran Vlaovic, with his five goals against Panachaiki, moved to the top of the first division scorers’ table with a total of six goals. Cypriot forward Michalis Constantinou, ending a three-round drought, received a pass from Giorgos Karagounis in the 22nd, dribbled past goalie Giorgos Ambadiotakis to open the score for Panathinaikos. Vlaovic headed in his first goal in the 26th to make it 2-0 and Constantinou increased it to 3-0 a minute later. With four goals between the 34th and 68th minutes, one of them with a penalty kick, Vlaovic single-handedly made it 7-0. Finnish winger Joonas Kolkka sealed the easy victory with a goal in the 76th. (AP)

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