SPORTS

League’s top end unchanged

Brazilian forward Giovanni netted a hat-trick yesterday as Olympiakos beat Paniliakos 3-1 away to retain the lead in the Greek first division. The match kicked off only after the pitch had first been cleared of a reported 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of nails, which had been spread overnight by unidentified persons. «We call on all competent authorities for a thorough investigation into this unprecedented and immoral act which could have caused serious injuries to the players,» Olympiakos said in an announcement. Paniliakos official Christos Christakopoulos said that unknown persons had broken into the western Greece stadium in the early hours yesterday and spread nails all over the pitch. «Fortunately, we discovered the nails long before kickoff and used magnets to clear the pitch,» the official said. Panathinaikos beat crosstown AEK 2-1 at home to keep up the pressure on Olympiakos. After 19 rounds, Panathinaikos is in second place with 46 points, one behind archrival Olympiakos. PAOK defeated Proodeftiki 3-1 away to retain third place with 40 points. Aegaleo, the season’s surprise team, beat Akratitos 2-1 at home and is fourth on 36, one ahead of AEK. In other results yesterday: Panionios 0, Kallithea 0; Xanthi 1, Aris 0 and Halkidona 2, OFI 1. On Saturday, Iraklis beat Ionikos 2-1. Olympiakos attacked from kickoff despite the absence of French midfielder Christian Karembeu and Serb playmaker Predrag Djordjevic, both sidelined with injuries. It came close to taking the lead when Paniliakos keeper Yiannis Liourdis saved a low shot by Giovanni in the 11th minute. But the 25-year-old goalie could not stop Giovanni’s close-range shot in the 24th. Paniliakos missed two opportunities to level in the first half before conceding a penalty which Olympiakos’s Grigoris Georgatos sent over the bar. In the 72nd, Liourdis made a one-handed save to a powerful header by Giovanni. But the Brazilian gained the rebound to make it 2-0. Giovanni netted his third goal with a shot in the 83rd. The hat-trick keeps Giovanni at the top of first-division scorers with 15 goals. Seconds before the final whistle, Paniliakos got a consolation goal from a penalty by Yiannis Sotirchos. A curling free-kick by Angelos Basinas from over 20 meters (yards) put Panathinaikos ahead in the 18th against AEK. Goalkeeper Chrysostomos Michailidis was unable to even touch the ball. The visitors almost equalized when a shot by Vassilis Lakis hit Antonis Nikopolidis’s post. Miltos Sapanis came close to increasing Panathinaikos’s lead in the 54th when his header was cleared off the line by Bulgarian midfielder Milen Petkov. But Sapanis could not be stopped in the 68th with a volley off a pass from Dimitris Papadopoulos. Ten minutes later, Nikos Lymberopoulos, who moved to AEK from Panathinaikos this season, scored for AEK to make the final result 2-1. AEK played without Dusan Bajevic on the bench. The Serb quit as coach last Monday after being hounded out of the job by a militant group of AEK fans. His assistant, Takis Persias, coached the team in yesterday’s game. (AP)