Panathinaikos holds firm away

Nikos Lymberopoulos grabbed two goals and Emmanuel Olisadebe added another as Panathinaikos defeated Aris 3-1 in Thessaloniki yesterday for the club’s ninth league win in succession in the Greek soccer first division. But the game was marred by fan violence during the interval. Aris supporters, apparently unhappy at their team trailing 2-0, started throwing broken plastic seats and other items at anti-riot police gathered around the pitch. The game resumed 15 minutes later than normal. But six minutes into the second half, referee Yiannis Spyropoulos temporarily stopped play after a flare was fired onto the pitch from the home supporters’ stand. In a similar incident in the first half, a flare actually hit the referee in the face. Spyropoulos needed brief medical attention but was able to carry on. League leader Panathinaikos now has 47 points from 20 games, two ahead of arch-rival and defending champions Olympiakos. In the round’s major game, Olympiakos beat PAOK 4-3 at home, with Pandelis Kaffes scoring a hat trick for the visitors. Vassilis Tsartas also scored a hat trick as AEK beat Kallithea 3-1 away to retain fourth place with 38 points, one behind PAOK. Olympiakos enjoyed its third consecutive league victory under Ukrainian coach Oleg Protasov since he replaced sacked Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec on February 7. In other games yesterday it was: Akratitos 0, Iraklis 2; Panachaiki 0, Ioannina 2 and Xanthi 0, Ionikos 0. On Saturday, OFI beat Proodeftiki 2-0 and Panionios edged out Aegaleo 1-0 to make a step forward to gaining a berth in the UEFA cup. Panathinaikos’s win came three days after the Athens club comfortably defeated Belgium’s Anderlecht 3-0 at home in a first-leg, fourth-round UEFA Cup match. In yesterday’s game, Lymberopoulos struck for the fifth week in a row. The striker opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a close-range strike after a corner kick taken by Giorgos Karagounis. One minute into first-half injury time, Lymberopoulos was back in scoring action to give Panathinaikos a 2-0 lead. He received a pass from Danish midfielder Jan Michaelsen, neatly beat an Aris defender and netted his 10th goal of the season. In the 64th, it was Polish international Olisadebe’s turn to score after a perfect cross from Lymberopoulos. Nyren Demba grabbed the hosts’ consolation goal a minute before regular time. In an action-packed game, Olympiakos took an early lead against Thessaloniki rival PAOK in the fourth. Brazilian midfielder Ze Elias scored with a left-foot drive after picking up a backheel pass by Yugoslav striker Predrag Djordjevic. In the 16th, Djordjevic netted his ninth goal of the season with a free kick from outside the area to make it 2-0. The ball hit the underside of Kyriakos Tohouroglou’s crossbar and then dipped down over the line. Kaffes narrowed the difference in the 27th after a melee in front of Olympiakos keeper Fanis Katergiannakis. The Piraeus club squandered at least two scoring opportunities before Brazilian forward Giovanni made it 3-1 in the 50th and Lambros Houtos 4-1 just one minute later. But with two goals in the 57th and 62nd, Kaffes made it 4-3 and brought his team back into the match. Tohouroglou saved a penalty by Djordjevic in the 83rd and French midfielder Christian Karembeu was shown the red card four minutes later for deliberately striking PAOK’s Cypriot forward Yiannakis Okkas. (AP)