Leader rallies in Thessaloniki

Super League front-runner and defending champion Olympiakos rebounded from an early one-goal deficit to strike three times within several minutes in the second half and beat PAOK 3-2 in Thessaloniki yesterday. PAOK narrowed in the last minute of regular time. The win kept Olympiakos six points ahead of its nearest rival. Second-placed AEK defeated Atromitos 3-0 to stay within striking distance of the leader just over the season’s halfway mark. Panathinaikos, playing Saturday, slipped to third place after being held to a scoreless draw by Xanthi. Eighteen rounds into the 16-team Super League, Olympiakos leads with 46 points. AEK trails on 40 points, two ahead of third-placed Panathinaikos. PAOK was overtaken by OFI In fourth place. The Cretan club, which beat Iraklis 1-0 at home, has amassed 26 points, one more than PAOK. From there on, a mere four points separate sixth-placed Aris from Larissa, second from last. PAOK, playing before its packed 29,000-capacity Toumba Stadium, opened the scoring in the 29th minute with Polish striker Marcin Mieciel connecting with a low cross from close range. Olympiakos struck back with a string of second-half goals from Vassilis Torossidis, Rivaldo and Nery Castillo in the 58th, 66th and 70th minutes respectively. PAOK reduced the gap to 3-2 a minute before the final whistle with a header from Sandor Torghelle. The Olympiakos squad’s bus was attacked by stone-throwing fans on its way to Toumba Stadium, causing minor damage to the vehicle. No injuries were reported. AEK’s 3-0 win over Atromitos was not as easy as the score suggests. Nikos Lymberopoulos opened the scoring in the 12th minute. But AEK did not bolster its slender one-goal lead until late in the game with Julio Cesar as the scorer of his team’s second goal on 80 minutes. Nine minutes later, young midfielder Panagiotis Kone scored his first goal for AEK. In yesterday’s other games, it was: Apollon Kalamaria-Ionikos, 1-0; Panionios-Ergotelis, 2-0; Larissa-Kerkyra, 2-2. On Saturday, Aris beat Aegaleo, 3-1.

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