Olympiakos maintains its one-point lead

Predrag Djordjevic converted a ninth-minute penalty and Olympiakos beat Levadiakos 1-0 to retain its lead in the Greek first division. The defending champion has 36 points after 14 rounds, one ahead of AEK, which beat Apollon 2-1 in Saturday’s other game. Levadiakos goalkeeper Nikos Zafeiropoulos’s impressive saves thwarted numerous attacks, but Olympiakos controlled the game throughout. The spot kick was awarded when Nikos Dimitropoulos fouled Tassos Pantos in the area. Levadiakos, which has returned to the top flight after a decade in the lower divisions, wasted a chance to level in the 18th when Loukas Karakatsanis missed an open goal. Uruguayan striker Nerry Castillo almost doubled the lead in the 83rd when his angled shot grazed the bar. AEK struggled against a determined Apollon team and had to wait until the 77th minute for Nikos Lyberopoulos to open the scoring with his eighth goal of the season. However, Apollon equalized four minutes later through Dimitris Orfanos. But Giorgos Alexopoulos headed the winner in the 90th from a corner kick by Julio Cesar. The match was played in an empty stadium because of crowd violence in a previous match. In one of five first division games played yesterday, Panathinaikos, under pressure to remain within striking distance of top spot after losing ground, earned a morale-boosting 2-0 away win against mid-table Aegaleo. On 27 points from 14 games, Panathinaikos lies nine points behind frontrunner Olympiakos. Vangelis Mantzios opened for the visiting team midway through the second half, in the 67th minute, with a precisely struck shot. Igor Biscan added Panathinaikos’s second goal 12 minutes later. It was the Croatian’s first goal with Panathinaikos since transferring from Liverpool last summer. The game had been preceded by turmoil at the Panathinaikos camp following a series of disappointing results, both domestic and European. During his team’s post-match news conference last week, Panathinaikos coach Alberto Malesani unleashed an extended verbal attack following days of bad press, including calls to resign by a growing number of fans and journalists. The team’s boss, Yiannis Vardinoyiannis, though, appears determined to carry on with Malesani as part of a long-term approach following countless hirings and firings at the club in recent seasons. In other games yesterday, it was: Iraklis-Panionios, 1-0; Kallithea-Atromitos, 2-3; Larissa-Ionikos, 0-0; and PAOK-OFI, 2-0. Round 14 of play will be completed tonight with Akratitos hosting Xanthi, while the Greek league will resume in two weeks following the festive season break. (AP, Kathimerini)