Panathinaikos trounces OFI 5-1 to move into Greek league’s top spot

Defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos scored twice yesterday to help give Panathinaikos a 5-1 win over visiting OFI of Crete and put the defending champion back into first place in the Greek first division. Silvio Maric, Michalis Constantinou and Maciej Bykowski also scored, while Giorgos Kazantzis netted for OFI. Panathinaikos’s 10th win of the season made it «winter champion,» the unofficial title given to the league leader after the 15th round, the halfway stage of the season. Panathinaikos now leads the league with 32 points after Olympiakos had three points deducted Friday – due to fan violence in the previous round – and AEK’s 2-1 loss on Saturday at Apollon. Olympiakos and AEK both have 30 points. Olympiakos beat visiting Iraklis 1-0 yesterday as Predrag Djordjevic scored from the penalty spot. Panathinaikos, which was without playmaker Angelos Bassinas, dominated possession from the kickoff, forcing OFI into a defensive role. The hosts had their first chance in the eighth minute when Cypriot midfielder Costas Charalambidis’s shot found the side of the net. Maric tried his luck in the 14th but his powerful low drive hit the post. Former Ajax striker Nikos Machlas, who moved to OFI this season, nearly scored when his header sailed over goalkeeper Mario Galinovic’s crossbar in the 16th. Panathinaikos opened the scoring on the half hour through Kyrgiakos who, unmarked, headed home Markus Munch’s corner. Kyrgiakos added another in the 36th when he beat OFI goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis with a splendid backheel off a powerful shot by Charalambidis. Panathinaikos made it 3-0 in the 62nd when Maric tapped a pass from Charalambidis into an open goal. Constantinou made it 4-0 in the 70th and Polish striker Bykowski got the last one in the 87th. Kazantzis scored in the 90th. With Diego Maradona watching from the stands, Olympiakos got off to a lively start against Iraklis and could have taken the lead in 12th minute when Rivaldo fired a free kick onto the post. However, Iraklis soon settled and defended well to keep the hosts at bay for most of the first half. The hosts resumed with more purpose after the rest period and Rivaldo came close again in the 50th when his header was cleared off the line by Iraklis defender Panayiotis Drougas. Olympiakos broke the deadlock after an hour of play when Djordjevic converted a penalty won by Cyprus striker Yiannis Okkas. Iraklis missed a golden opportunity to level in the 82nd when Khoum Keita was unable to send the ball into an open goal. (AP)