A step closer to league title

Striker Emmanuel Olisadebe grabbed a second-half injury time goal to give Panathinaikos a vital 2-1 win over PAOK in Thessaloniki yesterday. The victory keeps Panathinaikos on top of the Greek first division with 68 points, two ahead of archrival Olympiakos. Both teams have played 27 games. Olympiakos, which has won the last seven championships, easily defeated Panionios 2-0 with goals from Serb midfielder Predrag Djordjevic and Polish striker Krzysztof Kuzba. Not over yet But it’s too early for Panathinaikos to celebrate its first championship since 1996. Its three remaining matches – two away – are against teams threatened with relegation. Olympiakos has an easier task with two home games. PAOK retained third place with 56 points, chased by Aegaleo in fourth with 51 points. UEFA hopes On Saturday, Vassilis Lakis netted his eighth goal of the season as AEK enjoyed a 1-0 home victory over struggling Paniliakos Pyrgos. The cash-strapped Athens club, a preseason title contender, is fifth in the standings with 48 points, and still hoping for a place in the UEFA Cup. In other results yesterday: Ionikos 2, Proodeftiki 1; Akratitos 1, Iraklis 0 and Aris 3, Halkidona 0. On Saturday, Kallithea beat Xanthi 3-1. Sluggish opening Missing suspended playmaker Angelos Basinas, Panathinaikos appeared sluggish against PAOK, particularly in the opening minutes of the game. Taking advantage, the hosts charged forward and went ahead in the seventh minute with a shot by Paul Hagan off a center from Loukas Karadimos. Piling on the pressure, PAOK came close to scoring again when a shot from inside the area by striker Arman Feutchine went just wide. Two minutes before the end of the period, Panathinaikos had a clear scoring opportunity when a powerful shot by German midfielder Markus Muench from the edge of the box was saved by Kyriacos Tohouroglou. Three minutes into the second half, Dimitris Papadopoulos leveled with a low shot off a pass from Michalis Konstantinou. It was Papadopoulos’s 15th league goal of the season. Late winner The rest of the game saw Panathinaikos pushing forward in desperate search of the winner. In the 83rd, Tohouroglou made an excellent save against a well-placed shot by Miltiadis Sapanis. In the very last effort by the visitors, Sapanis passed the ball to Olisadebe, who had only joined the game in the 74th. The Polish substitute calmly netted the winner with a powerful close-range shot, silencing more than 18,000 PAOK supporters. Only PAOK fans attended the match on the basis of a ruling by the previous government which banned away fans from all matches for the rest of the season. The move aimed at cracking down on fan violence. Not long after the measure was introduced, EPAE, the professional association of Greek soccer clubs, citing the initiative’s financial repercussions on teams, urged the previous government to lift the ban. Many Greek clubs, particularly smaller ones, rely heavily on ticket sales generated by the visiting fans of major clubs. (AP)

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