Panathinaikos breaks free of the pack at league’s top

Defending champion Panathinaikos broke free from the Greek first division’s pack of leaders with a 1-0 away win over newly promoted Thessaloniki club Apollon Kalamaria yesterday. With three wins from three games, Panathinaikos left behind Olympiakos and Iraklis. Both dropped their first points for the season with respective losses. AEK and Aegaleo moved into second place with wins over Panionios and Ionikos, respectively. Both clubs, holding 2-1-0 records, trail Panathinaikos by two points. AEK defeated Panionios 2-0 and Aegaleo beat Ionikos 1-0. Striker Dimitris Papadopoulos’s goal on 24 minutes proved enough for Panathinaikos’s valuable away win against Apollon. Olympiakos, unable to carry over last Tuesday’s impressive Champions League victory against Liverpool in Athens, which put the Greek team at the top of its group, suffered its first domestic competition setback this season, a 2-1 loss, away, against Skoda Xanthi. Midfielder Giorgos Georgiadis put the Piraeus club ahead in the 18th minute after slotting the ball into the net from close range. But the home team responded minutes after the break when defender Nikos Zapropoulos headed in a cross on 49 minutes. Olympiakos players protested that the effort, intercepted by goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, failed to cross the line. Later, striker Stavros Labriakos provided Skoda Xanthi with the match’s winning goal on 72 minutes with a sweetly struck long-range lob over Nikopolidis. Both teams are now at six points each with 2-0-1 records. Thessaloniki club PAOK, rebounding from its UEFA Cup disqualification earlier in the week, emerged victorious against crosstown rival Iraklis. PAOK, led by its newly appointed Austrian coach Rolf Fringer, who replaced his outspoken predecessor Angelos Anastsiadis last week, spoiled Iraklis’s perfect opening to the season with a 1-0 win at home. Cameroon defender Guy Armand Feutchine scored the game’s sole goal just before the half-time break on 45 minutes. Iraklis had plenty of scoring opportunities throughout the game but failed to capitalize. Both clubs are now at six points after three games. Aris and newly promoted Cretan team Ergotelis, competing in Greece’s top division for the first time, fought a 1-1 draw to both rake in their first points in the season. The scoring came early. Ergotelis, playing at home – in the recently constructed Iraklion soccer stadium, one of four used for the Olympics – began a goal down from an own goal on 12 minutes. But the aspiring Cretan club struck back three minutes later. On Saturday, Kerkyra, also promoted to the Greek first division for the first time, earned its first ever major league point with a 1-1 home draw against Cretan club OFI. After surviving considerable pressure from the visiting side, Corfu-based Kerkyra opened the scoring after making the most of its first real scoring opportunity on 72 minutes. OFI hit back with a last-minute equalizer. In Saturday’s other game, a hat trick from Halkidona skipper Giorgos Zacharopoulos gave his side a 4-2 victory at home against Kallithea. Both teams are now with three points apiece after three rounds of play.