Panathinaikos survives visiting PAOK’s late surge

Panathinaikos reached the Greek Cup’s semifinals after beating Thessaloniki soccer club PAOK 3-1 in extra time late Wednesday night to win its two-leg quarterfinal tie with a 4-3 aggregate score. Going into Wednesday’s game needing to overcome a 2-1 deficit, the Athens team, which dominated the return leg’s greater part, looked set for the semifinals after building a 2-0 lead that was maintained until the regular period’s dying stages. But the determined visitor, down to 10 men from the 79th minute, broke out of its latency midway through the second half to launch a late and sustained onslaught. PAOK was rewarded with a 90th minute goal by striker Giorgos Georgiadis that sent the game into extra time. Panathinaikos had gone ahead in the 39th minute with a firmly struck free kick from Andreas Ivanschitz for a 1-0 lead that was good enough to get the host through to the semifinals. Striker Vangelis Matzios bolstered his team’s advantage by heading in a cross from 16-year-old Sotiris Ninis in the 63rd minute to make it 2-0. PAOK’s dwindling hopes were set back further in the 79th minute when defender Ilias Charalambous was sent off after being shown a second yellow card. By this stage, PAOK’s performance had begun to lift. Several scoring opportunities were created. PAOK came close to narrowing in the 87th minute when an effort by defender Christos Melissis struck the post. Three minutes later, in the final minute of regular time, PAOK got the goal it needed for a 2-1 score that took the tie into extra time. Matzios scored his second for the night in the 30-minute additional period’s fifth minute of play to make it 3-1. The promising young striker showed true class to penetrate a congested defense line and quickly slot past PAOK keeper Daniel Fernandes to the far post. Panathinaikos will now meet Xanthi in a home-and-away semifinal tie scheduled for February 28 and April 18. In the other semifinal, the second division’s PAS Yiannina, which stunned league front-runner and defending champion Olympiakos earlier Wednesday, meets Larissa on the same dates. The final is scheduled for May 5 at the Panthessaliko Stadium in the coastal city of Volos, just over 300 kilometers north of Athens.