Warzycha scores decisive goal

Veteran Polish striker Krzysztof Warzycha came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in Panathinaikos’s 1-0 win over Xanthi yesterday. The victory means that Panathinaikos is even closer to taking the league championship from current holder and six-time champion Olympiakos. Panathinaikos took advantage of a scoreless draw by second-place Olympiakos at Panionios Athens earlier yesterday. Panathinaikos has now increased its lead over Olympiakos from one to three points, with 61 points from 26 games. The title could well be decided when Olympiakos hosts Panathinaikos in the penultimate round of the 30-match season. AEK hammered Iraklis 6-1 at home to retain third place with 56 points. Minor crowd trouble at the Thessaloniki derby between Aris and PAOK forced referee Kyros Vassaras to suspend the match for 20 minutes. No injuries or arrests were reported. In other games yesterday it was: Aegaleo 0, OFI 4 and PAOK 2, Aris 0. On Saturday, Ioannina beat Kallithea 1-0, Akratitos defeated Panachaiki 3-0, while Proodeftiki and Ionikos played to a scoreless draw. Playing on neutral ground in the western city of Patras as punishment for previous crowd trouble, Panathinaikos charged forward from the start in search of victory. Xanthi’s Czech goalie Jurai Bucek had an excellent game, stopping at least six scoring attempts by Panathinaikos, including a 37th-minute penalty kick taken by Cypriot striker Michalis Constantinou. Warzycha replaced Constantinou in the 63rd minute and eleven minutes later 11,000 Panathinaikos fans celebrated when he sent the ball into Bucek’s upper-right corner with a beautiful left-foot curling shot from the edge of the box. The goal came just three minutes after goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis had used his leg to deflect a shot by Xanthi’s Austrian striker Gunter Friesenbichler. The 38-year-old Warzycha, who has been playing for Panathinaikos since 1989, is the club’s most prolific scorer and the second-highest scorer in Greece’s first division, which has existed since 1959. Olympiakos had the upper hand in its game against Panionios. The Piraeus squad nearly scored in the 13th when a long lob by defender Stelios Venetidis forced Panionios’s Czech keeper Jaroslav Drobny to make a spectacular save by pushing the ball over the bar. Olympiakos had another scoring opportunity in the 40th minute, when a blistering shot by Paraskevas Antzas hit Drobny’s knee for a corner. Earlier, hosts Panionios almost took the lead when a powerful shot by Andreas Lagonikakis narrowly went wide. In the last 10 minutes of the match, Olympiakos launched desperate attacks to score, but the Panionios defense resisted well. AEK scored two early goals in just two minutes in its home match against Iraklis. Vassilis Tsartas gave his team the lead off a cross from Vassilis Borbokis in the 2nd. One minute later, Christos Maladenis passed to Ilja Ivic in Iraklis’s area. The Yugoslav striker dribbled past defender Anastassis Katsambis to make the score 2-0. The hosts came close to narrowing the difference in the 38th when Panayiotis Gonias’s shot hit the crossbar. AEK easily dominated the rest of the match, scoring four more times thanks to Vassilis Lakis, Grigoris Georgatos, Dimitris Nalitzis and an own goal by Katsambis. Pantelis Kapetanos scored Iraklis’s consolation goal. (AP)