Xanthi through to cup semis

Xanthi, one of the first division’s most formidable performers this season, continued on its merry way yesterday by trouncing visitors Larissa 4-1 in a Greek Cup encounter to reach the competition’s semifinals. Second-division club Larissa went into the match needing to defend a slim 1-0 advantage from the home-and-away cup tie’s first leg. Looking to make the cup final for the first time in the club’s history, Xanthi will now meet Thessaloniki club Aris in the semifinal. The club’s formidable cup run adds to Xanthi’s admirable league standing. With seven rounds remaining in the 16-team Greek league, Xanthi is placed fourth. The leading trio, Panathinaikos, AEK and Olympiakos, lie nine, eight and seven points ahead, respectively. As the situation currently stands, Xanthi also looks set to gain a place in next season’s UEFA Cup. It would be the club’s first foray into European club-level soccer. Reflecting the club’s certainty of this, team officials have begun negotiating broadcasting rights for next year’s European campaign, a reliable source said. In the Greek Cup’s other semifinal, AEK will meet either Kastoria or Olympiakos. The pair meet today for the return leg. Olympiakos, which hosts third-division Kastoria, will strive to overturn a 2-1 away loss in the first leg. Spurred by the support of a capacity home crowd, Xanthi opened the scoring in yesterday’s match, a high-standard affair, in the 59th minute with striker Stavros Labriakos. Fellow striker Alexandros Garpozis added a second goal for Xanthi seven minutes later. Midfielder Luciano consolidated the home team’s position in the game by scoring for a three-goal lead in the 76th minute. Antonis Makris offered the visitors some hope by pulling one back in the 83rd minute to make it 3-1. A second goal from Larissa would have been enough to send the former first-division club through to the semifinals on a better aggregate score. Xanthi’s Luciano, however, eliminated any possibility of that by scoring his second goal for the evening in injury time for the encounter’s final 4-1 score.

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