SPORTS

Olympiakos in place for 7th title

Olympiakos beat a disappointing Panathinaikos 3-0 at home yesterday to take a major step toward winning the Greek first-division soccer championship for the seventh year in a row. Stelios Yiannakopoulos scored twice and Brazilian striker Giovanni netted another. With just one round left, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos each has 67 points but the Piraeus club is first with a much better goal difference. Olympiakos plays at Xanthi in the 30th round – in two weeks – and Panathinaikos hosts lowly Akratitos. Olympiakos is now the strong favorite to take the title. If both clubs end up with the same number of points, Olympiakos will win the championship because it has a better record in the two head-to-head league encounters this season. Panathinaikos beat Olympiakos 3-2 in the first match. Strict security measures were in force to avoid a repeat of fan violence that erupted at a league match between the two teams last season. Despite the presence of more than 3,000 policemen in and outside the stadium, Olympiakos fans threw dozens of flares at Panathinaikos players as they attempted to get on the pitch to train before kickoff. Toward the end of the actual game, Panathinaikos fans burned and tossed plastic seats onto the pitch. The match between the two «eternal rivals» was described as the most important league game in the last three years. It was played at the Rizoupoli stadium in front of 11,000 spectators, only 2,000 of whom were Panathinaikos supporters. The clash was the 24th time Olympiakos has played Panathinaikos at home since professional soccer was officially established in Greece in 1980. Olympiakos has now won nine games, Panathinaikos four, with 11 draws. (AEK Athens beat relegated Panachaiki 2-0 away to secure third place in the 16-team standings and a coveted spot in the Champions League qualification rounds.) Olympiakos controlled the match throughout. It charged forward from kickoff, scoring a third-minute goal with a header by Brazilian striker Giovanni off a free-kick from Yugoslav midfielder Predrag Djordjevic. The early goal appeared to completely throw disorganized Panathinaikos. In a rare chance for the visitors, Takis Fyssas squandered a good scoring opportunity in the sixth, heading over the bar from 3 meters (yards). Lacking control and making many unforced mistakes, particularly in the defense, Panathinaikos let Olympiakos take a 2-0 lead with Yiannakopoulos in the 15th. He gained the ball in the area, went past a defender and scored with a calmly-placed shot. In the 46th, Yiannakopoulos struck again right at the start of the second half. (AP)