AEK retains its lead, Olympiakos stays second

Demis Nikolaidis scored two goals and Sotiris Constantinidis added another as AEK beat newcomer Akratitos 3-0 yesterday to retain the lead in the first division soccer league. After seven rounds, AEK has 18 points. Defending champion Olympiakos Piraeus beat Ethnikos Asteras 4-2 away on Saturday, to retain second place with 17 points. Aris beat OFI Crete 1-0 in Thessaloniki on Saturday and moved to third place with 12 points, one ahead of Panathinaikos, Iraklis and Xanthi. After a disappointing performance, Panathinaikos lost 2-1 to Iraklis in Thessaloniki, making its bid for the league title more difficult. After a scoreless first half during which AEK appeared disorganized and out of focus, the league-leaders scored three goals after the break and satisfied some 3,000 fans at AEK’s Nikos Goumas Stadium. Nikolaidis gave AEK the lead in the 47th minute with a close-range shot. In the 54th minute, German midfielder Oliver-Martin Otto downed Theo Zagorakis in the Akratitos area, and Nikolaidis converted the penalty to make it 2-0. It was Nikolaidis’s fourth goal of the season. Constantinidis closed the score with a goal off a pass from Milen Petkov in the 76th minute. In Thessaloniki, Ghanaian striker Ebenezer Hagan exploited a mistake between Panathinaikos’s Danish midfielder Jan Michaelsen and his goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis to give Iraklis the lead in the 46th minute. A similar error between Nikopolidis and defender Rene Herniksen, the club’s second Danish player, allowed Vangelis Koutsoures to make it 2-0 in the 57th minute. In the 78th, Panathiniakos’s Goran Vlaovic failed to convert a penalty. Four minutes later, Michalis Constantinou made the final score 2-1. On Saturday, Olympiakos had little difficulty beating Ethnikos Asteras, despite playing with five of its key players sidelined due to injuries. After two decisive saves by Ethnikos Asteras’s keeper Chrysostomos Michailidis in the opening minutes, Olympiakos took the lead with a header by Alexis Alexandris in the 10th. In a counter-attack in the 20th minute, the hosts leveled with a shot from close range by Giorgos Podaras. But Olympiakos again took the lead with a header by Brazilian striker Giovanni off a Predrag Djordjevic cross in the 27th. Five minutes into the second period, the visitors made the score 3-1 thanks to an own goal by Daniel Edusei. In his effort to kick Andreas Niniadis’s cross away, the Ghanaian defender sent the ball into his team’s goal mouth. The last two minutes of the game saw Ethnikos Asteras narrowing the difference with Giorgos Kontopoulos, before Olympiakos’s winger Stelios Yiannakopoulos made the final 4-2. In other matches yesterday: Aegaleo 2, Ionikos 2; Panionios 2, Panachaiki 0; Xanthi 1, PAOK 0. (AP)

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