AEK takes lead in Greek league

Brazilian striker Alexandre Soares and Nikos Lymberopoulos scored two goals each yesterday to help AEK trounce Kallithea 4-1 and move into the Greek first division’s top spot. The cash-strapped Athens club took advantage of Panathinaikos’s 2-0 loss at newcomer Kerkyra to take a three-point lead in the standings. After five rounds, AEK has 13 points, followed by Panathinaikos, Xanthi, Olympiakos and Halkidona with 10 points each. It was the second straight week that defending champion Panathinaikos stumbled to a weaker opposition with newly hired Czech coach Zdenek Scasny at the helm. Last week, it played to a scoreless draw against visiting Aegaleo. Also, title-contender Olympiakos drew 1-1 at Halkidona. In other results, it was: Aegaleo 0, Apollon 0; Panionios 1, Ionikos 0; and PAOK 2, Aris 2. After a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, AEK returned to its winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Kallithea. AEK striker Lymberopoulos paved the way in the 18th off a splendid through ball from Cypriot midfielder Simos Krassas. Soares doubled AEK’s lead in the 60th after converting a piercing pass from Costas Katsouranis deep in Kallithea’s box. The visiting team pulled one back five minutes later with a shot by Tassos Kyriakos from the edge the box. But Soares made it 3-1 in the 68th before Lymberopoulos closed the scoring five minutes later. Playing without five regular starters, including midfielders Angelos Basinas and Ezequiel Gonzalez, Panathinaikos struggled to find its stride against its enthusiastic host, which moved to the first division this season for the first time in its 80-year history. It was Panathinaikos’s first league defeat of the season. Kerkyra got off to a lively start and breached the Athens club’s porous defense after 20 minutes, thanks to a blistering long-range shot by former Panathinaikos player Xenofon Gitas. The Athens club looked unable to respond and Kerkyra extended its lead on the half hour when Senegalese striker Seyni Ndiaye took advantage of a poor clearance by Pantelis Constantinidis to fire the ball past goalkeeper Costas Halkias. Olympiakos charged forward from the start against Halkidona, nearly scoring in the 17th when Cyprus striker Yiannis Okkas, one-on-one with goalkeeper Pierre Edebe, shot the ball straight at the ‘keeper. Halkidona took the lead through Markos Dimos in the 70th. The scorer headed the ball home after an unsuccessful save by Greece’s goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. Two minutes later, Vangelis Dangas helped Olympiakos level with an own-goal after a melee in front of Edebes’s goalmouth. (AP)