SPORTS

Olympiakos faces tough task

Second-division club PAS Yiannina, one of the lower-tier league’s two soccer teams through to the Greek Cup’s quarterfinals, created a realistic chance of taking its quest in the competition further with a 2-0 home win last night against defending champion and Super League front-runner Olympiakos in a first-leg encounter. The two meet in the decider on January 31. Also yesterday, in the round’s main game, Thessaloniki club PAOK, at home, defeated Panathinaikos 2-1. The cup’s other second-division survivor, Ilisiakos, lost 2-0 at home against Xanthi, leaving it with little, if any, hope for a semifinal berth. Kerkyra greets Larissa in the remaining first-leg quarterfinal next Wednesday. Currently pushing for a return to the country’s top league, the provincial club, a giant-killer during its days in the top league in the 1970s and 1980s, had not beaten Olympiakos in 21 years. It was the Piraeus team’s first defeat with new coach Takis Lemonis at the helm since his recent return, three matches ago, for a second tenure following the departure of Trond Sollied as a result of the club’s latest European debacle. Lemonis started the game against the second division opponent without several regular starters. But the two-goal deficit his team now faces may well prove too high a hurdle for Olympiakos to clear in the return leg. Yiannina, a deserved winner, opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a header from Vangelis Kontogoulidis. Giles Domoraud added the home team’s second with a powerful header on 77 minutes. «It was a bad game and result for Olympiakos. This defeat must serve as a lesson for us and we need to examine why we played the way we did,» Lemonis told the post-match news conference, while also defending his choice to rest regular starters. Yiannina coach Yiannis Papacostas, also newly appointed, asserted that his team could have scored more. He was hired just days ago to replace Nikos Anastopoulos, who was fired by the club’s boss, celebrity lawyer Alexis Kougias, after Yiannina lost some ground in its promotion race with a defeat against struggling Kalamata. Yiannina lies fifth in the 18-team second division, one point behind Ilisiakos and Haidari, tied in third place. The top three clubs gain promotion to the Super League. In the match of the day, PAOK, playing before a packed home stadium, dominated the first half of its encounter against Panathinaikos for a 2-0 lead at the break with goals from midfielder Pantelis Konstantinidis and Polish striker Marcin Mieciel. But young striker Vangelis Matzios broke through on the counter attack to run the ball for almost half a pitch, dribble past around keeper Daniel Fernandes and slot hope firmly from the side in the 62nd minute for the final 2-1 score.