Olympiakos gains major ground

Nery Castillo, Grigoris Georgatos and Yiannis Okkas scored a goal each as Olympiakos beat relegated Kerkyra 3-1 yesterday to narrow the gap from league leader Panathinaikos from three points to one. The Piraeus squad took advantage of Panathinaikos’s 1-1 draw at PAOK and crosstown AEK’s humiliating 1-0 home defeat to Ionikos. The results leave the title race wide open with two rounds to go. Dimitris Papadopoulos put Panathinaikos ahead in the 23rd minute. But the Athens club kept the lead for only one minute as Dimitris Salpingidis equalized in the 24th. After 28 rounds, Panathinaikos leads with 60 points, one ahead of Olympiakos and two ahead of AEK. Also yesterday, it was: OFI 1, Xanthi 0; Iraklis 5, Kallithea 1; Panionios 1, Aris 1; Halkidona 2, Apollon 3 and Egaleo 2, Ergotelis 0. Panathinaikos dominated possession from the start and opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through Papadopoulos. The Greek international latched on to a piercing through ball by Fanis Gekas and fired a low shot into the net from the six-yard line. The defending champion’s joy was, however, short-lived as PAOK, in hot pursuit of a place in the UEFA Cup, leveled one minute later. The unmarked Salpingidis easily beat goalkeeper Mario Galinovic from close range. Panathinaikos, who played with three strikers, continued to press forward as PAOK posed a constant threat on the counterattack. The Athens club almost restored its lead in the 72nd when Papadopoulos’s diving header was stopped by the crossbar. Panathinaikos’s Yiannis Goumas also hit the post in the 90th. Playing before 40,000 fans at the Athens Olympic Stadium, AEK got off to a lively start and had its first chance on goal in the 2nd minute when a blistering shot by Nikos Lymberopoulos went narrowly wide. AEK wasted its best scoring opportunity in the 41st when Vladan Ivic’s shot was cleared off the line. A surge by the hosts in the final stages proved fatal as Ionikos made the best of the gaps in defense and grabbed the winner three minutes before the end with a shot by Antonis Natsouras. AEK pressed for an equalizer but Ionikos held on to take all three points and move clear of the relegation. Olympiakos enjoyed a pleasant afternoon on the island of Corfu and was 2-0 up by halftime. Kerkyra pulled a goal back with Ederson Fofonka but Okkas closed the scoring in the 64th. (AP)