Olympiakos beats PAOK to keep nine-point lead at top of ladder

Goals from Yiannis Okkas and Michalis Constantinou saw Olympiakos beat PAOK 2-1 yesterday and retain its nine-point lead in the first division. Olympiakos’s 19th win of the season moved it closer to its second straight title. With nine rounds left in the 30-game league, Olympiakos has 57 points. Costas Katsouranis scored a late winner as AEK beat Ionikos 2-1 to retain second place with 48 points. Crosstown rival Panathinaikos is third with 45. Panathinaikos beat last-place Akratitos 2-0 with goals from Dimitris Papadopoulos in the first minute and Fanis Gekas in the 62nd. PAOK’s Egyptian striker, Mahmoud Sikabala, scored in the fifth minute past goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis after Dimitris Salpingidis had dribbled past Erol Bulut outside the box. Olympiakos could have leveled 10 minutes later, but a curling free kick by Brazilian Rivaldo hit the crossbar. Moments later, a shot by Salpingidis hit the post. Olympiakos leveled in the 33rd with a close-range shot by Cyprus striker Okkas off a perfect cross from Pedrag Djordjevic. Olympiakos came close to a second goal in the 45th when Grigoris Georgatos’s angled shot went just wide. Marcin Mieciel almost gave PAOK the lead in the 58th, but he was unable to find the net with only Nikopolidis to beat. In the 77th, Cypriot Constantinou shook off two defenders and scored the winner with a left-footed drive. The goal enraged several hundred PAOK supporters, who set fire to a section of the stands, forcing referee Thanassis Briakos to interrupt the game for 10 minutes. Some sports pundits interpreted the trouble as rebellion by fans against the club’s current administration. A considerable number of the team’s fans have called for the resignation of club president Yiannis Goumenos. The Thessaloniki club began the season with higher ambitions, including a Champions League berth next season. The excitement was fueled further by the arrival of the national team’s inspirational captain Thodoris Zagorakis. But the club currently lies a disappointing sixth with an 8-6-7 record for 30 points from 21 league games. At the Athens Olympic Stadium, Oleg Venhlinskyy put AEK ahead in the 21st. Emmanuel Perone leveled for Ionikos in the 39th, before Katsouranis scored just seconds before the final whistle. Also yesterday, it was: Larissa 1, OFI 0; Levadiakos 1, Atromitos 0; and Aegaleo 0, Apollon 0. On Saturday, it was: Iraklis 2, Xanthi 0 and Kallithea 1, Panionios 2. Trouble was also reported at another first division game between host Levadiakos and Atromitos, which the home team won, 1-0. Players reportedly clashed inside the tunnel leading to the dressing rooms after the game had ended. (AP, Kathimerini)

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