SPORTS

Tired Panathinaikos stumbles

Panathinaikos played to a scoreless draw against relegation-threatened Ioannina away yesterday to help archrival Olympiakos Piraeus move even closer to the leaders of Greek soccer’s first division. After 24 rounds, Panathinaikos has 55 points and Olympiakos 54. With a second-half penalty by Predrag Djordjevic, Olympiakos beat Aris Thessaloniki 1-0 at home. The Piraeus club has won the league for the last six years. Dimitris Nalitzis netted a second-half injury time goal as AEK Athens beat PAOK 1-0 at Thessaloniki Saturday. AEK retains third place with 50 points and has a good chance of a berth in the Champions League next season. The top three teams will qualify for Europe’s most prestigious competition. This season’s surprise team, Panionios Athens (14-5-5), defeated Kallithea 2-0 at home to keep fourth place with 47 points. In other results yesterday it was: Proodeftiki 1, Iraklis 0; Aegaleo 0, Xanthi 0 and Panachaiki 0, OFI 2. On Saturday, struggling Akratitos beat Ionikos 1-0 to boost its hopes of remaining in the first division. «You have to forget about Europe… we were hurt by our elimination (from the UEFA Cup) but you should bear in mind that our target now is the Greek championship,» Panathinaikos coach Sergio Markarian told his players before the start of the game against Ioannina. Panathinaikos appeared tired but also disorganized at Ioannina, particularly due to the absence of the team’s playmaker Angelos Basinas. The player has a thigh injury which also sidelined him in Thursday’s UEFA Cup 2-0 defeat against Portugal’s Porto. Panathinaikos goalminder Antonis Nikopolidis was the game’s best player with three key saves, including a 40th-minute penalty taken by Thomas Kyparissis. The league leaders became more aggressive in the second half, but their efforts remained fruitless. With four regular starters sidelined because of injuries, Olympiakos had a difficult task against a sturdy Aris. Three minutes into the second half, a shot from Stelios Venetidis found the hand of Aris’s Giorgos Koltzidas. Djordjevic converted the penalty to mark his 10th goal of the season. The match was played in Pyrgos, western Greece, as punishment for Olympiakos fan violence in a prior league game. (AP)