Olympiakos stays on top of Greek league

Brazilian forward Giovanni and Uruguayan midfielder Nery Castillo scored one goal each yesterday to give Olympiakos a 2-1 away win over Panionios to retain the lead in the Greek first division. Archrival Panathinaikos easily beat Thessaloniki club PAOK 3-0 in Athens and remains in second place. After 12 rounds, defending champion Olympiakos has 29 points and Panathinaikos 27. PAOK drops to fourth place with 23 points, one behind Aegaleo, the season’s surprise team. Aegaleo played to a 1-1 draw against OFI in Crete on Saturday. Lowly Paniliakos of Pyrgos, western Greece, shocked AEK 1-0 thanks to a goal from Yiannis Thomaidis. AEK, a preseason league contender, retains fifth place with 21 points. In other results yesterday: Halkidona 2, Aris 1; Xanthi 1, Kallithea 1; Proodeftiki 1, Ionikos 1 and Iraklis 2, Akratitos 1. Olympiakos surprised Panionios with an early fourth-minute goal from Giovanni off a free kick from Serbian midfielder Predrag Djordjevic. Panionios, eliminated on Thursday from the UEFA Cup by Spanish powerhouse Barcelona, leveled with a diving header by Argentinean striker Cristian Pino in the 23rd. The hosts were left with 10 players as early as the 32nd when French defender Alain Raguel got his second yellow card for fouling Giorgos Georgiadis. Olympiakos pressed its one-man advantage and went ahead with Castillo’s fifth league goal of the season in the 38th, again after a feed from Djordjevic. The second half, played in pouring rain, was totally free of action except for a dramatic last three minutes. Olympiakos gained a penalty in the 89th but Djordjevic hit the post. Immediately afterward, Panionios went on the attack, coming close to an equalizer when three consecutive shots were stopped by a group of Olympiakos players in front of Fanis Kateryiannakis’s goalmouth. Contrary to prematch expectations, Panathinaikos easily beat PAOK with all three goals scored in the first period. The Athens club charged forward from the start, nearly scoring in the ninth when PAOK keeper Ilias Atmatzidis made a one-hand save to a powerful shot by Angelos Basinas. Panathinaikos took the lead in the 20th with Dimitris Papadopoulos off a pass from Cypriot forward Michalis Constantinou. Papadopoulos has now scored eight goals, the highest tally by any player so far in the first division. Danish midfielder Jan Michaelsen gave Panathinaikos a 2-0 lead in the 37th with a blistering shot from the edge of the box, which was deflected off a PAOK player. Seconds before the end of the period, stopper Yiannis Goumas headed in his first goal of the season to make the score 3-0. Except for a shot by Croatian striker Goran Vlaovic which hit Atmatzidis’s bar in the 81st, neither team had other serious scoring opportunities. (AP)