Neck-and-neck battle unchanged at the top

Cypriot striker Michalis Constantinou and Argentinean midfielder Ezequiel Gonzalez grabbed one goal each as Panathinaikos beat Aegaleo 2-0 at home yesterday to stay one point behind league leader Olympiakos in the Greek first division. Olympiakos beat Kallithea 2-1 away Saturday, thanks to an own goal from Giorgos Koulakiotis. The Piraeus club now has 56 points and archrivals Panathinaikos 55. Both clubs have played 22 games. PAOK beat OFI 2-0 in Thessaloniki to retain third place with 47 points. After three consecutive losses, pre-season title-contender AEK beat Aris 1-0 Saturday at home. It was AEK’s first win with Romanian coach Ilie Dumitrescu at the team’s helm. He replaced Dusan Bajevic, who stepped down in disgust in January after being hounded for months by a group of militant AEK fans. In other results yesterday: Proodeftiki 2, Paniliakos 0; Akratitos 1, Xanthi 3, and Ionikos 0, Halkidona 1. On Saturday, Panionios beat Iraklis 3-0 away. Aegaleo’s keeper Srdan Kljajevic made two superb first-half saves, stopping a powerful free kick by Angelos Basinas in the sixth minute and an angled shot by Polish striker Emmanuel Olisadebe in the 20th. But Kljajevic was beaten in the 45th by Constantinou who headed in a perfect center by German midfielder Markus Muench. Aegaleo charged forward after the rest period, but it was Panathinaikos that scored again in the 61st. Basinas passed to Gonzalez who beat Kljajevic with a perfectly placed left-foot shot from the edge of the box. Gonzalez moved to Panathinaikos from Argentina’s Rosario Central in the January transfer period. In Saturday’s game against Kallithea, Olympiakos took the lead in the 23rd when Spyros Vallas’s strong header, off a corner from Predrag Djordjevic, slid under goalie Giorgos Souloganis’s body. It was the first league goal of the season for the 23-year-old defender. The hosts nearly leveled in the 46th when a right-foot drive by Nikos Skarmoutsos hit Olympiakos’s crossbar. The visitors came close to grabbing a second goal in the 58th. A shot by Ieroklis Stoltidis was cleared off the line by Bulgarian defender Borislav Georgiev. One minute later, Achilleas Angelopoulos outjumped Stoltidis in the Olympiakos goalmouth to head in the equalizer. But the hosts’ joy lasted only seven minutes. The league’s top scorer, Brazil’s Giovanni, confused the Kallithea defense by letting a cross run through to the goalmouth. The loose ball was then accidentally deflected into his own goal by Koulakiotis. The league leaders could have made it 3-1 in the dying minutes of the game but Andreas Niniadis, one-on-one with Souloganis, shot wide. The next round will be played in two weeks’ time because of the March 7 general elections. (AP)

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