AEK fights back to beat rival

Greece international defender Traianos Dellas grabbed a second-half goal to help AEK beat crosstown rival Panathinaikos 2-1 in the Greek league last night. The encounter was marred by pre-match violence as hundreds of fans from both clubs clashed inside and outside the stadium, hurling rocks and flares at each other. At least seven fans and three policemen were injured and 12 police vehicles were damaged in the clashes. Police said five fans were arrested. The incidents forced referee Giorgos Kaznaferis to delay the kickoff for 20 minutes. Panathinaikos began the game strongly but AEK was determined enough to respond to the early pressure and eventually dominate play, especially in the second half, during which the visiting team controlled midfield play. Dimitris Papadopoulos gave Panathinaikos the lead and Gustavo Manduca leveled with a penalty kick. The win moved AEK from seventh to third place in the 16-team standings with 12 points – alongside Aegaleo, Larissa and Kerkyra – which puts it six behind league leader and defending champion Olympiakos. Panathinaikos remained second with 13 points. Both preseason title contenders, Panathinaikos and visiting AEK got off to a lively start. The host grabbed the lead in the 25th minute when Papadopoulos headed home a pinpoint cross by Andreas Ivanzsischtz. It was the Greece international’s fourth goal of the season. But the host’s joy was short-lived as AEK bounced back two minutes later when Manduca converted a spot kick earned by Dellas, who was brought down by central defender Yiannis Goumas. Panathinaikos missed a golden opportunity to restore its lead in the 36th when Victor’s freekick deflected into the path of Dimitris Salpiggidis, who fired straight into the arms of Stefano Sorrentino. AEK came out stronger in the second half and Dellas fired in the winner in the 76th after beating one defender. The win was a morale boost for AEK coach Serra Ferrer, whose side has been unable to rake in the results in the Champions League. AEK lies last in Group H with just one point from three games and little, if any, hope of advancing to the competition’s next round. For Ferrer, last night’s victory was his first win over fellow Spaniard Victor Munioz on Greek soil. Panathinaikos midfielder Mikael Nilsson blamed his side’s loss on misfortune. «It was lucky for AEK,» said Nilsson. «I don’t think they had more chances than us. I don’t think they played better than us. But they scored twice and we didn’t.» (AP, Reuters, Kathimerini)