Panathinaikos retains lead

Panathinaikos beat Halkidona 3-0 at home yesterday to stay top of the Greek first division with goals from Ezequiel Gonzalez, Dimitris Papadopoulos and Jan Michaelsen. After a hard-fought game, Olympiakos beat Ionikos 2-1 away, thanks to a winning goal from defender Spyros Vallas. The Piraeus squad, playing its first game under new coach Nikos Alefantos, stays in second place with 59 points, two behind Panathinaikos. Both teams have played 24 games. PAOK remains in third place with 53 points after coming back from two goals down against AEK to win 3-2. In the round’s highest-scoring game, Iraklis smashed nine-man Aris 6-0. In other results yesterday it was: Panionios 2, Aegaleo 0, and Proodeftiki 2, OFI 0. On Saturday, Paniliakos beat Xanthi 1-0 and Akratitos played to a scoreless draw against Kallithea. Panathinaikos looked sluggish at first but slowly started taking control. A blistering shot from Gonzalez in the 15th minute hit the back of Halkidona’s Brazilian midfielder Anderson. The league leaders were more aggressive in the second period and took the lead in the 55th minute. A spectacular lob by Gonzalez from the edge of the box caught goalie Thanassis Kois off his line. Panathinaikos’s Michalis Constantinou hit the bar in the 70th. Papadopoulos made it 2-0 in the 89th and Michaelsen 3-0 one minute later. After last week’s traumatic home defeat against AEK, which led to coach Oleg Protasov’s dismissal, Olympiakos desperately needed to beat hosts Ionikos to keep the pressure on Panathinaikos. Olympiakos nearly scored in the 10th but keeper Arian Beqaj made a decisive save to a header by Uruguayan midfielder Nery Castillo. The visitors missed another major scoring chance in the 32nd when Brazilian striker Giovanni shot wide one-on-one with Beqaj. Olympiakos went ahead in the 37th after Predrag Djordjevic converted a controversial penalty. In the 55th, more than 10,000 Olympiakos fans were silenced when Ionikos’s Liberian striker Oliver Makor leveled off a pass from Devanir Ferreira. The winner for Olympiakos came 12 minutes before the end of the match when Vallas took advantage of a melee in front of Beqaj’s goalmouth to net his second goal of the season. In the round’s most exciting match, AEK was leading PAOK 2-0 with two goals from Nikos Lymberopoulos and halftime approaching. But with one goal in the 45th and another in first-half injury time, Cypriot striker Yiassoumis Yiassoumakis made it 2-2, delighting some 25,000 PAOK supporters. Ten minutes into the second half, AEK’s stopper Michalis Kapsis was expelled for a last-man foul. Dimitris Salpingidis made the final score 3-2 to PAOK from the free kick which followed this foul. AEK is now fifth with 41 points and can hope only for a berth in the UEFA Cup. (AP)

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