AEK on top after thumping Ionikos 4-0

Demis Nikolaidis scored two goals and gained a penalty yesterday to lift AEK of Athens to a 4-0 home win over Ionikos Nikaia and regain the lead in Greece’s first-division soccer league. Two weeks ago, defending champion Olympiakos overtook AEK in the 14-team standings. But the Piraeus team lost the top spot after drawing 1-1 against Iraklis in Thessaloniki yesterday. After 14 games, AEK has 30 points, one ahead of Olympiakos. PAOK Thessaloniki beat crosstown Aris 3-2 on Saturday to retain third place with 28 points. Panathinaikos Athens follows with 27. In another disappointing performance, Panathinaikos scraped past crosstown Panionios with stopper Yiannis Goumas scoring the winner in second-half injury time. In other games yesterday the results were: Ethnikos Asteras 2, OFI 3; and Xanthi 3, Akratitos 0. Despite AEK’s poor showing in the first period, watched by more than 8,000 spectators at the Nikos Goumas stadium, the Athens club took the lead with star striker Nikolaidis in the 19th. He received a center from Michalis Kasapis, beat two Ionikos defenders and slotted the ball past goalie Foto Strakosha. Serb striker Ilija Ivic replaced Christos Maladenis in the 46th to boost AEK’s presence up front. In the 56th, Nikolaidis gained the ball at the edge of the box, spun round and lashed a powerful shot to mark his 11th goal of the season and make the score 2-0. Strakosha brought Nikolaidis down in his area and Vassilis Tsartas converted the penalty in the 65th to stretch the score to 3-0. Ivic, who moved to AEK from Aris Thessaloniki in January, paired with Nikolaidis in the 70th to make the final 4-0. The hosts had a good scoring opportunity in the 31st when a shot from Brazilian striker Nasimento went just wide. In Thessaloniki, Iraklis charged forward from kickoff, but Olympiakos goalie Dimitris Eleftheropoulos scotched all efforts with a string of saves. The hosts missed a chance to score in the 24th with Fofonka, when the Brazilian’s shot hit Olympiakos’s left bar. Olympiakos replied six minutes later when fellow-Brazilian Giovanni was stopped by the crossbar. Andreas Niniadis was again foiled by the woodwork in the 43rd. Olympiakos took the lead with a spot kick taken by Predrag Djordjevic in the 55th. The penalty, strongly disputed by the hosts, was awarded when goalie Costas Halkias fouled Alexis Alexandris in his area. In a sudden counterattack four minutes later, the hosts leveled with Fofonka off a pass from Georgian striker Levani Kebadze. (AP)

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