Tough cup wins for favorites

Olympiakos, currently troubled by poor squad morale and bad form that threatens to topple the Piraeus team from top spot in the Super League late in the season, managed a hard-fought 3-2 away victory against second-division club Thrasyvoulos in a first-leg Greek Cup semifinal match yesterday. The Piraeus team snatched victory courtesy of a late goal from striker Darko Kovasevic, the league’s top scorer, with a minute left on the clock. Earlier in the game, Olympiakos looked set for an easy day against Thrasyvoulos, currently second in the second division and focused on promotion. The Piraeus team led 2-0 before the half-hour mark. The hosts, however, squandered several chances to score. Costas Mendrinos put the visitors ahead in the 18th minute with a right-foot volley from inside the box and Leonel Nunez made it 2-0 from a difficult angle in the 29th minute. A minute later, Thrasyvoulos narrowed with a goal from Ilias Anastasakos. Then, in the 36th minute, Panayiotis Bris leveled from close range. As the first-leg encounter looked set to end in a draw, Kovasevic entered the box from the left and slid the ball past the Thrasyvoulos goalkeeper with a minute to go. Yesterday’s tough win for Olympiakos follows a 4-0 thrashing at AEK last weekend that whittled the defending league champion’s previously comfortable lead in the Super League to just one point with three rounds of play remaining. Olympiakos President Socrates Kokkalis, who sacked coach Takis Lemonis just weeks ago, shortly after his team’s impressive Champions League run was ended by English powerhouse Chelsea in the Round of 16, has threatened to make more changes. In yesterday’s other Greek Cup first-leg semifinal, played later last night, Thessaloniki club Aris snatched a 1-0 win against a stubborn Atromitos side with an injury-time penalty kick from Toni Calvo. Aris, currently fourth in the Super League, dominated play but needed to wait until the game’s dying stages to score. Loaded with tension and scuffles, even after the game, plus a number of yellow cards for rash challenges, the game’s referee added six minutes of stoppage time. In one late incident, he showed two red cards, one to each side. Both semifinal return legs are scheduled in two weeks’ time.

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