SPORTS

Iraklis and PAO in the final

Panathinaikos and Iraklis will contest this year’s volleyball league title, in a repeat of last year’s final where Panathinaikos took the trophy in the end. In the fourth games of the semifinal series yesterday, Panathinaikos beat PAOK 3-0 in Thessaloniki to win the series 3-1, while Iraklis made the most of its home advantage last night and beat Olympiakos 3-1, thereby winning the series with the same score. Champion and cup winner Panathinaikos showed it had shaken off its negative performance in the first game of the series and staged a great show at PAOK’s home ground. The local side only troubled the Greens at the end of the first set (24-26) and the start of the third. Panathinaikos saw PAOK off easily in the second set (17-25) and staged a comeback in the third, turning a 12-11 deficit into a 13-20 lead and winning the set in the end 17-25. The match was interrupted for a few minutes at 13-14 when the president of PAOK stormed onto the court to protest at the referees, while objects flew from the stands. «We will have to further improve if we want to retain the title,» said Panathinaikos coach Francisco Dos Santos. «It is now that the action begins,» team captain Thodoris Baev stated. In the evening’s most anticipated match, Iraklis confirmed its progress during the last month with its third win in 10 days over Olympiakos, this time in Thessaloniki. The 2005 champions dominated the game completely in the first couple of sets, which they won by a massive margin (25-18 and 25-14), mainly thanks to their excellent serving and powerful blocking. Olympiakos showed a much more competitive face in the third set which it led throughout and won 22-25. Yet Iraklis reverted to its performance of the first two sets to down Olympiakos 25-18 and advance to the final. Iraklis finished the match with 16 aces against only two for Olympiakos. The best-of-five series of the league finals begins on Monday at Panathinaikos’s home ground in Glyfada. Panathinaikos enjoys the home advantage due to its finishing top in the regular