Olympiakos exploits slip-ups

Olympiakos celebrated the return of supporters to its Karaiskaki Stadium stands, after a six-match ban for crowd violence, with a 2-1 win over Ionikos yesterday that puts the Piraeus club in joint top spot with Panathinaikos. Earlier yesterday evening, Panathinaikos surrendered its clear league lead after being confined to a scoreless home draw by lowly Aris. On Saturday, AEK dropped two valuable points with a 1-1 draw, away, against Halkidona, to drop from second to third place. With six rounds of play remaining, Olympiakos and defending champion Panathinaikos share top spot with 50 points apiece. AEK lies a point behind in this three-horse race, well ahead of fourth-placed PAOK, on 41 points. PAOK, playing Saturday, defeated Xanthi 1-0 to take over fourth spot. Olympiakos needed to work hard for its 2-1 win, after Ionikos silenced the home crowd by opening the scoring late in the first half. Nery Castillo and Predrag Djordjevic each scored within two minutes early in the second half to hand their side the valuable win. Panathinaikos squandered a golden scoring opportunity in its 0-0 draw against Aris with a missed penalty kick from the league’s top scorer Fanis Gekas in the 28th minute. Costas Katsouranis scored a second-half goal on Saturday to help AEK salvage a 1-1 draw in Halkidona in the Greek first division. Christos Iliopoulos converted a penalty to give Halkidona the lead in the 16th minute and Katsouranis leveled with a shot in the 66th. One goal was enough for Aegaleo to snatch victory from visiting Thessaloniki team Iraklis and climb a notch to sixth place in the league standings, one point ahead of Halkidona. If maintained, Aegaleo’s current league standing could send the Athens club through to the UEFA Cup. Midfielder Giorgos Barkoglou scored Aegaleo’s sole goal yesterday in the 45th minute of play. Panionios kept alive its hopes for a UEFA Cup appearance next season with a valuable 3-1 away win over Kerkyra. The visiting Athens club needed to overcome a mighty start from the Corfu team, whose level of play, however, plummeted early in the second half. Panionios struck three times in eight minutes to abruptly end Kerkyra’s growing strength in the game. Newly promoted Kerkyra, last in the standings and looking headed for a quick return to the second division, narrowed for the final 3-1 score in the 63rd minute. Former Ajax Amsterdam striker Nikos Machlas struck two minutes from time to give OFI a 1-0 win at home against fellow Cretan rival Ergotelis. The three points steered OFI well clear of the relegation zone, just below a mid-table placing. With six rounds of play remaining, Ergotelis needs to overcome a four-point gap separating it from Aris, now third from last, to remain in the big league. In yesterday’s other game, Apollon Kalamaria went down 2-1 at home to Kallithea. (Kathimerini, AP)

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