Olympiakos sinks AEK in final minutes

Olympiakos snatched a late victory against rival host AEK last night to maintain its perfect domestic league record and bolster its claim for an eighth Greek league title in nine seasons. The Piraeus club conceded its first goal for the season after five rounds of play but won 3-1. Though it appeared headed for a draw, the game took a sudden turn in the final minutes with goals from Yiannis Okkas and Michalis Constantinou for the 3-1 final result. Olympiakos, now on 15 points from five games, holds a five-point lead over second-placed Xanthi, which plays today. AEK and Panathinaikos, Olympiakos’ two main customary challengers, have slipped seven points behind the league leader. Playing at home and seeking maximum points to reduce Olympiakos’s lead in the Greek league, AEK applied late pressure in search for the winning goal. But the visitor found its way to the net twice on the counter-attack. AEK opened the scoring in the 41st minute when defender Giorgos Alexopoulos connected with a free kick by Nikola Malbasa to beat goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis from close range. Olympiakos leveled in the 54th minute with a penalty kick from Predrag Djordjevic. The visitor went ahead in the 87th minute when Brazilian star Rivaldo passed to Cypriot striker Constantinou, who elegantly slotted past AEK keeper Stefano Sorrentino for a 2-1 score. Just one minute later, Olympiakos sealed its victory when the club’s other Cypriot striker Okkas made a run and shot past Sorrentino. Boosted by its encouraging 2-1 win over powerful German club Werder Bremen in Athens last Tuesday night, Panathinaikos took a further step toward domestic and European club-level competition recovery on Saturday with a hard-fought 4-2 away win against Kallithea. Panathinaikos needed to rebound from a two-goal deficit following goals from the home team’s Hristo Telkiyski in the 32nd minute and Borislav Georgiev six minutes later. Panathinaikos striker Fanis Gekas reduced Kallithea’s lead to 2-1 in the 41st minute. Central defender Ilias Kotsios equalized in the 63rd minute and Gekas made it 3-2 for Panathinaikos seven minutes later with his second goal. Dutch midfielder Nordin Wooter completed the recovery with an injury-time goal for Panathinaikos’s handsome 4-2 final result. In Saturday’s other game, Levadiakos registered its first victory for the season with a 3-2 win over Panionios. Playing yesterday, Ionikos maintained its undefeated run for the season with a scoreless draw away against Akratitos to take its tally to seven points from five games. PAOK, jubilant following Thursday’s UEFA Cup success over Ukrainian club Metalurh, dropped more domestic points with a 2-2 home draw against Larissa. The mid-placed Thessaloniki club, which was boosted by the signing of Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis over the summer, has accumulated just six points from its five games. Iraklis suffered a 1-0 home defeat against fellow Thessaloniki club Apollon Kalamaria. Both sides were looking for victory following slow starts to the season. Xanthi, one of the Greek league’s most impressive performers so far this season, plays its fifth round game today, away against Atromitos. Xanthi must now focus entirely on domestic competition following its elimination from the UEFA Cup last Thursday night. The Greek club was confined to a scoreless draw at home against England’s Middlesbrough after going down 2-0 in the first leg. Egaleo and OFI meet for their fifth-round Greek league clash next Sunday, a bye for all other teams ahead of the national team’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Denmark on October 8. Greece then plays its final qualifier four days later against Georgia in Athens. Key central defender Traianos Dellas has rejoined the Greek squad after being sidelined for months by injury. Coach Otto Rehhagel also called up striker Vangelis Mantzios for both games. Takis Fyssas, who plays for Scottish league leader Hearts, was selected despite carrying a knee injury. With Ukraine already qualified, Greece, Denmark and Turkey are vying for second place in Group 2. Turkey has 20 points from 11 matches, while Greece has 18 and Denmark 16 from 10 games.