Top two survive scares amid heavy scoring

Michalis Constantinou scored twice in a nine-goal thriller yesterday as Panathinaikos beat Halkidona 6-3 at home to stay top of the Greek first division. Markus Muench, Ezequiel Gonzalez, Dimitris Papadopoulos and Fanis Gekas were the other Panathinaikos scorers. Yiannis Katemis netted two goals and Yiannis Sotirchos added another for the visitors. Panathinaikos’s closest rivals also won. Olympiakos beat Aegaleo 3-1 at home and visiting AEK beat OFI 3-2 on the island of Crete. Three rounds before the end of the 30-game season, Panathinaikos is on top with 59 points, one point ahead of AEK. Olympiakos is third with 56 points. Also yesterday, it was: Kallithea 1, Panionios 1; Xanthi 1, Iraklis 0; and Aris 2, Kerkyra 0. Playing before empty stands due to crowd violence in the match against Olympiakos two weeks ago, Panathinaikos took an early lead after eight minutes with a penalty kick by Muench. The hosts almost added another in the 15th minute but Constantinou’s close range shot sailed over the bar with only Cameroonian goalkeeper Pierre Ebede to beat. The visitors restored parity in the 25th through a powerful free kick by Yiannis Sotirchos. Panthinaikos had a shot on the post of Mario Gonzales two minutes later but Halkidona made it 2-1 with Yiannis Katemis in the 28th. Panathinaikos bounced back with two goals in a minute just before the end of the first half. Gonzales dribbled past three Halkidona players and curled a splendid shot past Ebede before striker Fanis Gekas grabbed his 16th goal of the season off a clever pass by Constantinou. Katemis surprisingly made it 3-3 in the 55th. But three minutes later, Constantinou struck twice in the 58th and 59th to give Panathinaikos a 5-3 advantage. Papadopoulos made it the final 6-3 in the 75th. At the Karaiskaki Stadium, Olympiakos seized the initiative from the start and missed a string of opportunities before Rivaldo opened the scoring in the 25th with a clinical left-foot drive from the edge of the box. The Brazilian made it 2-0 with a volley in the 48th. Aegaleo pulled one back in 61st with a header by Manolis Psomas and came tantalizingly close to an equalizer in the 67th when Tassos Agritis’s shot was denied by the crossbar. Giovanni put the match beyond the visitors in the 78th with an ingenious lob An injury time goal by Nikos Lymberopoulos gave AEK a 3-2 victory against OFI. The Cretans staged a tremendous comeback with Nikos Machlas and Giorgos Kazantzis after Vladan Ivic and Julio Cesar had given AEK a 2-0 lead halfway into the second half. On Saturday, visiting PAOK settled for a 1-1 draw at Ionikos Nikaia Saturday but remains a major candidate for a place in the UEFA Cup. Dimitris Salpingidis put PAOK ahead in the seventh minute and Gabriel Gutman leveled in the 69th. In Saturday’s other match, Apollon Kalamaria beat Ergotelis 1-0 to keep its chances of remaining in the first division alive. Ergotelis, a newcomer in the top division this season, drifted closer to relegation and remains second from last. At Nikaia, Armand Feutchine’s curling free kick was blocked by Albanian goalkeeper Arian Beqaj but the ball rebounded perfectly for Salpingidis to tap in his 12th goal of the season. Argentine striker Gutman charged into the box to fire home from close range and level the scores. He almost added another moments later but his ambitious lob sailed over the bar. Ionikos dominated possession for the remaining minutes of the match but was unable to grab a late winner. (AP)

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