SPORTS

Panathinaikos just one step from first title since 1996

Polish striker Emmanuel Olisadebe came off the bench to score a dramatic late winner for Panathinaikos over struggling Proodeftiki yesterday. The 2-1 away win brings the Athens club closer to winning the first-division title and with it the double. Last week, Panathinaikos beat Olympiakos 3-1 to clinch the Greek Cup for the first time since 1995. With one round left, Panathinaikos has 74 points, two ahead of defending champion Olympiakos, which beat Aris Thessaloniki 3-0 at home yesterday. PAOK defeated Halkidona 2-1 in Thessaloniki, sealing third place and a berth in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League. Aegaleo, the season’s surprise team, played to a 1-1 draw against Kallithea but had already secured a place in next season’s UEFA Cup for the first time in its 73-year-old history. Aegaleo’s game was watched by Italy’s Walter Zenga, who last week signed a one-year-contract as coach of Aegaleo. Zenga will replace Giorgos Hadzaras who will shortly leave the club after five years at its helm. In other games on Sunday: Iraklis 0, Paniliakos 0; Ionikos 1, Xanthi 0; Akratitos 1, Panionios 1 and AEK 2, OFI 2. Panathinaikos charged forward from the start. The Proodeftiki defense resisted well until the 14th minute when Argentinean midfielder Ezequiel Gonzalez gave Panathinaikos the lead with a first-time shot off a cross from Giourkas Seitaridis. It was the fifth goal of the season for Gonzalez. Proodeftiki keeper Petros Karanastasis twice made decisive saves to deny Panathinaikos a second goal. In the 31st, Karanastasis dived low to keep out a powerful right-foot drive by Angelos Bassinas. In the 36th, the goalie made a one-hand save to a close-range shot from Gonzalez. At its end of the pitch, Panathinaikos suffered a major blow when keeper Costas Halkias was injured in the 40th and replaced by Stefanos Kotsolis, making his league debut for Panathinaikos. Four minutes later, Kotsolis conceded his first goal of the season after Vassilis Spertos equalized from within the six-yard area. Both teams had everything to play for in the second half – Panathinaikos chasing the win and Proodeftiki needing at least a draw in its fight against relegation. Karanastasis again proved the vital man for Proodeftiki, stopping several shots on goal. He was finally caught out of position in the 75th by a Yiannis Goumas header but defender Costas Mangos cleared the ball off the line. Olisadebe, who replaced Jan Michaelsen in the 80th, squandered a major scoring chance in the 88th when he shot wide one-on-one with Karanastasis in the 88th. Only one minute later, Olisadebe proved his worth, firing in a well-placed winner to the delight of more than 2,000 Panathinaikos fans at the Korydallos stadium. Olympiakos beat Aris 3-0 with three second-half goals from Giorgos Georgiadis, Grigoris Georgatos and Brazilian striker Giovanni. (AP)