Xanthi loses but keeps lead

Front-runner Xanthi squandered a two-goal advantage to lose 3-2, away against Aegaleo last night, but maintained its one-point lead in the Greek league standings after challenger Olympiakos was toppled by Cretan club OFI with a 1-0 score. Late last night, AEK closed in on both Xanthi and Olympiakos with a sensational 3-0 home victory against Panathinaikos. All three goals came in the last few minutes of play. Striker Nikos Lyberopoulos struck first in the 85th minute. Midfielder Louay Chanko added an amazing second goal three minutes later with a long-range shot that found keeper Mario Galinovic out of place. Vassilis Lakis completed the scoring in the 91st minute. After seven rounds of play, Xanthi leads with 16 points. Olympiakos lies second, a point behind, while AEK moves up to third place with 14 points. Olympiakos suffered its fourth consecutive defeat – in domestic and Champions League competition. OFI went ahead in the 67th minute when midfielder Predrag Djordjevic’s clumsy return to keeper Antonis Nikopolidis ignited a comedy of failed goalmouth attempts, by both sides, to either clear or score. The melee ended when a feeble strike by OFI’s Nikos Machlas’s deflected off Nikopolidis and into the net. Rebounding from a 1-0 away defeat in UEFA Cup group action against Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk, PAOK annihilated Ionikos 6-1 with three goals in each half. Defender Ifeanyi Udeze headed in an Armand Feutchine corner kick to open the scoring for PAOK in the 18th minute. Ten minutes later, a powerful strike from midfielder Pantelis Constantinidis left the visiting club’s keeper Arian Beqaj with no chance for a 2-0 lead. Dimitris Salpigidis slotted in a third goal for PAOK from close range in the 37th minute to bolster the home team’s lead. Ionikos’s Oliver Makor reduced the deficit to 3-1 right before the half-time break with a well-struck shot from within the box. But it did nothing to stop PAOK’s scoring spree. Feutchine scored PAOK’s fourth three minutes after the break. Striker Lazaros Christodoulopoulos made it 5-1 in the 58th minute. Salpigidis added his second and PAOK’s sixth in the 70th minute. In a relegation-zone battle of poor standard, Akratitos lost 1-0 at home against Panionios. Also yesterday, Levadiakos beat Kallithea 1-0. In a game played Saturday, Iraklis – traditionally one of the league’s more formidable sides but struggling this season – collected three needed points with a 2-0 home win against Atromitos. Larissa greets Apollon Kalamaria today in a match that completes the league’s seventh round of play.