Olympiakos in seventh heaven after Xanthi win

Ending the season in style, Olympiakos Piraeus thrashed Xanthi 5-1 yesterday to claim a record seventh straight Greek soccer title. Lambros Houtos scored twice in the away game, as Greece’s soccer powerhouse nosed out Panathinaikos, which had led the standings for months. The archrivals finished level with 70 points each in the 16-team standings, but Olympiakos had a better head-to-head record. Thousands of supporters spilled onto the streets of Piraeus to celebrate as fireworks lit up the sky. After a troubled season, Olympiakos came from behind and only took the lead in the league on May 11 after defeating Panathinaikos 3-0. Ukrainian coach Oleg Protasov, a former Soviet Union international, was Olympiakos’s fourth man on the bench this season. Panathinaikos found little consolation on Sunday when it ended with a win, beating lowly Akratitos 3-1. AEK, denied a late miracle, finished third with 68 points. It came from 2-0 down to beat Panionios 4-2 with goals from AEK’s Vassilis Lakis, Vassilis Tsartas, Dimitris Nalitzis and Christos Maladenis. In other action yesterday it was: Kallithea 2, OFI 0; Ioannina 3, PAOK 2 and Ionikos 3, Panachaiki 0. On Saturday, Proodeftiki and Aegaleo played to a 1-1 draw, while Aris – thanks to a second-half injury time goal by Yiannis Malous – beat crosstown Iraklis 2-1 to gain a spot in the UEFA Cup. Greek Cup winner PAOK and Panionios are the other two teams which will represent Greece in the competition. Olympiakos and Panathinaikos will move directly to groups in the Champions League, while AEK will play in a qualifying round. Panachaiki Patras and Ionikos were relegated to the second division. Chalkidona, based in Piraeus’s suburb of Nikaia, won the hard-fought second-division championship and gained promotion to the first division for the first time in its 73-year-old history. After a two-season absence, Paniliakos returns to the first division. Play-off games will decide a third team to be dropped to second division and another club to be promoted to the major league. Panathinaikos striker Nikos Lymberopoulos, reportedly set for a transfer, topped the first-division scorers with 16 goals, one more than Olympiakos’s Stelios Yiannakopoulos, who is also set to leave his team after Olympiakos dismissed his demands for a more lucrative contract. In Xanthi, Olympiakos took an early lead with Houtos in the fourth minute off a cross from Stelios Venetidis. In the 18th minute, Vance Sikov leveled for Xanthi, but Houtos again put the visitors ahead in the 25th and Yiannakopoulos made it 3-1 in the 45th. Veteran Alekos Alexandris in the 68th minute and Uruguayan striker Alberto Castillo in the 85th made the final 5-1. About 6,000 delirious Olympiakos supporters sang and cheered as Ilias Tsikinis whistled the end of the match. Panathinaikos played Akratitos on the island of Rhodes after being punished for crowd violence. Nikos Sapanis gave Panathinaikos the lead in the 18th minute and Michalis Constantinou made it 2-0 10 minutes later. Akratitos pulled back one in the first half and veteran striker Krzysztof Warzycha grabbed Panathinaikos’s third goal in the 86th. (AP)

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