Olympiakos’s shock loss to Aris tightens race for the championship

Nordin Jbari ended Olympiakos’s 12-game unbeaten streak yesterday with a header that gave Aris a surprise 1-0 away win and once again left the first division title wide open. Halfway through the 26-round league, defending champion Olympiakos stayed on top with 28 points, just one clear of AEK. AEK, which had led through the first 11 rounds, lost to PAOK in Thessaloniki 3-2, its third defeat with that score in a row. PAOK, with 25 points, retained third place and is one point ahead of Panathinaikos. Defender Sotiris Kyriakos gave Panathinaikos a 1-0 win over Ethnikos Asteras with a header in the 58th minute. Panathinaikos, which had trailed then-leader AEK by 12 points three rounds ago, rejoined the ranks of title contenders, hoping to win its first championship since 1996. Olympiakos has won the title five years in a row since then. In other games yesterday the scores were: Panionios 0, Iraklis 1; OFI 0, Xanthi 1; Panachaiki 0, Ionikos 2. On Saturday, Aegaleo beat Akratitos 1-0. Olympiakos created most of the chances but failed to overcome keeper Fanis Kateryiannakis’s spectacular form. In the last 10 minutes, when the hosts threw everything in to level, Kateryiannakis made a series of stunning saves to preserve the score. In the 66th minute, Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis replaced a defender with a fourth striker, Gabriel Alvez, leaving Aris enough space for counterattacks. In one such attack, the Moroccan-born Frenchman Jbari netted the game’s only goal in the 78th minute, off a cross from fellow-Moroccan Said Chiba. Playing at PAOK’s Toumba home ground, more than 22,000 spectators were treated to an action-packed game. PAOK took the lead in the 18th minute with a close-in header by Giorgos Georgiadis off a free-kick from Vassilis Borbokis. Demis Nikolaidis had a shot cleared off the line, but leveled in the 32nd with a header placed by free-kick specialist Vassilis Tsartas. Vassilis Lakis put AEK ahead in the 38th minute. But two minutes later, Tassos Katsiambis made it 2-2, again with a header off a perfect cross from Georgiadis. As AEK charged forward to score, Cypriot striker Yiannakis Okkas headed in his ninth goal of the season to make the final 3-2. (AP)

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