AEK beats Panachaiki to increase league lead

A first-half goal by Vassilis Lakis gave AEK Athens a 1-0 win over Panachaiki in Patras yesterday and increased its lead at the top of Greece’s first division soccer league. AEK gained in a 2-2 draw by second-placed Olympiakos Piraeus and now stands three points clear in the standings. Olympiakos was held to a draw against its perennial rival Panathinaikos Saturday after Poland-national Emmanuel Olisadebe struck twice in the season’s first clash between Greece’s two biggest clubs. The result kept alive Panathinaikos’s slim chances for the league title. Panathinaikos, which faces Real in Madrid tomorrow for the Champions League, is fifth in the 14-team standings with 12 points from eight games. It is six points behind Olympiakos and nine behind AEK. In other action yesterday, it was: Aegaleo 0, Panionios 1; Ionikos 1, Xanthi 1; PAOK 2, Ethnikos Asteras 1; Akratitos 0, Aris 1. In another game Saturday, OFI beat Iraklis 1-0. In the game in Patras yesterday, AEK threw its players forward from the start of the match, but Panachaiki nearly scored in the ninth minute. AEK defender Pavon Gamarra cleared a shot from Zoel Epalle off the line with the goalie out of position. The hosts claimed Gamarra had handled the ball but referee Stavros Kremastiotis, in his first division debut, refused to grant a penalty. AEK scored the winner in the 32nd with a header from Lakis off a center from Michalis Kasapis. Ten minutes into the second period, S.otiris Constantinidis almost added another for AEK but his header scraped past Yiannis Baltimas’s right bar. The rest of the match saw the hosts pressing hard to level but AEK’s defense checked all attacks. In the round’s major game Saturday, Panathinaikos’s goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis kicked away a close-range header by Christos Patsatsoglou in the 20th. But he could not stop a shot from Alexis Alexandris four minutes later. Predrag Djordjevic made it 2-0 in the 42nd with a 29-meter free kick that bounced off two players on the defensive wall. Panathinaikos forward Michalis Constantinou squandered two early chances, but the visitors became more aggressive after the rest period. Olisadebe narrowed the difference in the 71st off a cross from Croatian striker Goran Vlaovic. Five minutes later, Olisadebe took advantage of a melee before Olympiakos’s goal area to mark his sixth goal of the season and make the final score of 2-2. Olympiakos’s best scoring opportunity in this period came when a shot from Stelios Yiannakopoulos hit the crossbar in the 64th. (AP)

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