SPORTS

League’s top end remains unchanged as frontrunners all land victories

All remained unchanged at the top of the Greek first division as the top three sides, leader Olympiakos, challenger Panathinaikos, and third-placed AEK registered victories in yesterday’s mid-week round of matches in anticipation of the weekend break for the New Year. Olympiakos remained a point ahead of second-placed defending champion Panathinaikos with a commanding 3-0 home win against newly promoted Corfu club Kerkyra. Defender Giorgos Anatolakis put the home side ahead on 14 minutes, Grigoris Georgatos added a second from a spectacular strike, and Brazilian forward Giovanni completed the scoring with a delicately struck shot on 57 minutes. After 13 rounds of play, Olympiakos leads with 30 points, one ahead of Panathinaikos and three ahead of AEK. Panathinaikos fought back to beat Thessaloniki rival 2-1 in Athens courtesy of a late goal from Cypriot striker Michalis Constantinou. PAOK went ahead on 35 minutes when defender Paris Andralas made the most of a fumbled save by keeper Mario Galinovic from a powerful shot by striker Sladjan Spasic. Three minutes later, the home side leveled with a strike by Yiannis Goumas from within the box. Constantinou handed his side a late bonus on 86 minutes with a diving header into the back of the net. AEK, looking for victory after three consecutive 1-1 draws, battled valiantly for a 3-2 away win over mid-placed Ionikos. Striker Alessandro Soares opened the scoring for the visitors on 14 minutes after connecting with a Milen Petkov free kick to convert from close range. But the joy was short-lived as the home side struck back four minutes later with a powerful long-range strike from forward Oliver Makor after goalkeeper Chryssostomos Michailidis fumbled. AEK threatened to regain the lead on 31 minutes, but striker Nikos Lyberopoulos, with just Ionikos keeper Arian Beqaj to beat, sent the ball wide from close range. Six minutes later, AEK captain Michalis Katsouranis put his side ahead. But the determined home side equalized for a second time when Makor struck again on 57 minutes with a free kick. AEK regained the lead when midfielder Christos Kontis’s shot deflected off defender Giorgos Damiantis to beat keeper Arian Beqaj. Xanthi moved up to fourth place after rebounding from a goal down to defeat OFI 2-1. Nikos Machlas made the most of the first real scoring opportunity for the Cretans on 59 minutes. But Xanthi’s Luciano scored twice – from the penalty spot on 67 minutes and with a well-struck free kick on 87 minutes – to snatch victory for his team. In the round’s other games yesterday, it was: Xanthi-OFI, 2-1; Kallithea-Iraklis, 2-1; Aris-Panionios, 1-0; Apollon Kalamaria-Halkidona, 0-2; and Ergotelis-Egaleo, 2-1.