Olympiakos gains an edge

Two goals in the first eight minutes of play from 22-year-old Costas Mendrinos gave Olympiakos a 2-0 win in a first-leg Greek Cup quarterfinal tie against Iraklis at the Karaiskaki Stadium last night. The hosts’ coach Takis Lemonis fielded a fairly makeshift side following a tough week with matches against Chelsea and PAOK. He also had in mind the important Champions League return leg against Chelsea next Wednesday. Olympiakos took the lead in the fifth minute when Leonel Nunez set the ball up for Costas Mendrinos. He fired a left-foot volley from the edge of the box straight into Rafael Pardo’s net. Three minutes later Costas Mitroglou provided Mendrinos with the ball at the edge of the box and the Olympiakos striker made it 2-0 with a right-foot shot. Mirnes Sisic missed a glorious chance to score the third with only the goalkeeper to beat after another great through ball by Nunez in the 21st minute, but Pardo outfoxed the Olympiakos midfielder and snatched the ball in time. Iraklis squandered a number of chances to narrow the gap in the second half. Lemonis rested regulars such as Antonis Nikopolidis, Predrag Djordjevic, Darko Kovacevic, Cristian Ledesma and Ieroklis Stoltidis. Youngsters like Mendrinos, Mitroglou, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis started the game for Olympiakos. Their eagerness was what made the difference in last night’s match. Also yesterday, Xanthi and Aris, which occupy fourth and sixth places respectively in the Super League, played a scoreless draw at Xanthi. The home team was the better side in an encounter dominated by excessive caution from both sides for fear of conceding goals. Today, Atromitos hosts OFI. First-leg quarterfinal play ends next Wednesday when Thrasyvoulos hosts Larissa. Dates for all four return-leg matches have not been announced.