Race for the title remains tight

Olympiakos trounced Xanthi 4-1 at home yesterday to retain the lead in the Greek first division. Giorgos Georgiadis, Ieroklis Stoltidis, Brazilian forward Giovanni and Pandelis Kaffes scored in Olympiakos’s 16th win of the season. After 20 rounds, Olympiakos has 50 points, one ahead of archrivals Panathinaikos, which came from behind to beat Ionikos 2-1 away. PAOK beat Paniliakos 3-0 to retain third place with 43 points. Making his debut on the bench of AEK Saturday, Romanian coach Ilie Dumitrescu saw his players hit Panionios’s posts four times and lose the home game 1-0. AEK retains fifth place in the standings with 35 points, but its chances of gaining a top-three place and a corresponding berth in the Champions League look slim. In other results yesterday: Akratitos 1, Proodeftiki 0; Kallithea 2, Halkidona 3, and Iraklis 2, Aegaleo 1. On Saturday, OFI beat Aris 3-0. Olympiakos launched frequent attacks against Xanthi right from the start. It came close in the 22nd minute when a blistering low shot by Dimitris Mavrogennidis was punched away by goalkeeper Nikos Anastassopoulos. Six minutes later, Turkish midfielder Deniz Baykara fouled Anastassis Pantos in the Xanthi area and Georgiadis converted the penalty for his fifth league goal of the season. The second period saw Petros Dimitriou leveling 1-1, after a mistake by Stoltidis in the 65th. But two minutes later, Stoltidis made up for his error by putting Olympiakos in the lead with a header. Giovanni, the league’s leading scorer, grabbed his 16th goal of the season off a cross from Polish striker Krzysztof Kuzba in the 78th. Kaffes made it 4-1 four minutes before the end of the game. Ionikos surprised Panathinaikos in the fifth minute with a controversial goal by Argentine striker Gabriel Gutman. It came after a fumble by keeper Antonis Nikopolidis and a goalmouth melee. Panathinaikos, playing with newly signed Argentine midfielder Ezequiel Gonzalez, leveled with a penalty by Markus Muench in the 12th. In the 53rd minute, Panathinaikos netted what turned out to be the winner with a header by Papadopoulos off a cross from Angelos Basinas. Muench got a second yellow card in the 60th, forcing his team to play with 10 players for the final 30 minutes. Panathinaikos’s South African defender Nasief Morris preserved the win when he cleared a last-second shot by Mohamed Ashaf off the line. (AP)