AEK wins again to stay on top

Demis Nikolaidis scored two goals as AEK beat Aris 4-2 at home yesterday to mark its ninth win of the season and retain the lead in Greece’s first division soccer league. AEK now has 27 points from 10 games, remaining five clear of Olympiakos. Olympiakos defeated newcomer Akratitos 3-2 away Saturday, with Predrag Djordjevic scoring the winner three minutes before the final whistle. The league will resume on January 13. Organizers called the month-long break so that the 14 teams playing in the 26-round league finish the season on May 12 and not earlier. In other action yesterday it was: PAOK 3, OFI 2; Xanthi 3, Panionios 1; Aegaleo 1, Ethnikos Asteras 0; Ionikos 0, Panathinaikos 2. In another game on Saturday, Panachaiki played to a 1-1 draw against Iraklis. Playing on a rain-soaked pitch, Aris surprised AEK at the Nikos Goumas stadium. It took the lead in the seventh minute when a shot by an AEK defender deflected off Aris’s Moroccan striker Said Chiba to beat stunned goalie Ilias Atmatzidis. AEK pushed forward and leveled with a header by Sotiris Constantinidis after a corner kick in the 18th. Atmatzidis made two decisive saves to shots by Aris players before Demis Nikolaidis gave the Athens club the lead with a header in the 53rd. Vassilis Tsartas, who replaced Brazilian defender Marica in the 27th, converted a penalty to make the score 3-1 in the 63rd. The visitors, applying midfield pressing and fast counterattacks, narrowed the gap with Chiba, who kicked in a penalty in the 68th. Eight minutes before the end of regular time, a powerful free kick from Tsartas hit keeper Theofanis Katergiannakis in the face. Nikolaidis gained the rebound to make the final 4-2. On Saturday, defending champion Olympiakos went ahead in the third minute with a header by defender Jorge Bermudes off a corner from Djordjevic. Eight minutes later, Akratitos striker Panagiotis Ziakas gained the ball from Frenchman Christian Karembeu in midfield and sprinted down the left wing to level with a shot from close range. In the 21st, Ziakas helped put the hosts in the lead, feeding Apostolos Koutsokostas who beat keeper Angelos Georgiou. A minute later, Alexis Alexandris headed in his sixth goal of the season and make the score 2-2. Akratitos goalie Dimitris Raptis made two decisive saves. But he could not stop Djordjevic’s 87th minute curled shot from the edge of the box to give the defending champion a last-gasp 3-2 win. (AP)

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