SPORTS

Iraklis nets volleyball title

Iraklis won its second volleyball league title in a row yesterday after sweeping Panathinaikos 3-0 in the final series. The visitors downed the Greens in Athens 1-3 after a thrilling match in front of 2,000 Panathinaikos fans who accepted defeat graciously. Iraklis had won the first two encounters of the final series, 1-3 in Athens and 3-0 in Thessaloniki. The hosts last night were missing their Colombian opposite, Liberman Agamez, who was injured during training last week. Iraklis was once again deprived of the services of Bulgarian Plamen Kostantinov and had Greek international Andrej Kravarik only half-fit due to a foot injury. Panathinaikos won the first set 26-24 after overturning a 19-22 deficit thanks to the inspired introduction of Chrysanthos Kyriazis. Iraklis led for most of the second set, but missed out on three set balls at 21-24. Panathinaikos equalized 24-24, yet Iraklis bounced back to win 25-27. The third set saw Panathinaikos take a significant lead (15-11) but Iraklis quickly took over through excellent defending and won the set 22-25. Iraklis was never really challenged in the fourth set, leading throughout and winning 21-25 after Panathinaikos clearly ran out of steam. Kravarik, Iraklis’s skipper, said after the match: «It is always important for an athlete to offer beautiful sporting moments and we are particularly happy right now. We want to dedicate this title to our fans.» Iraklis blocker Nikos Smaragdis said the league title is due to the players’ team effort that helped them overturn the home advantage Panathinaikos had enjoyed. Panathinaikos captain Sotiris Pantaleon, eyes down, could not hide his disappointment: «We accept our responsibility and apologize to our fans, whom we have failed once again. We won the cup but then missed out on the Champions League final four and the league. I don’t know what is to blame for our failures.» Meanwhile, Olympiakos secured the third spot in the league after beating Lamia for the third time; playing in Piraeus, Olympiakos won 3-1 (25-23, 19-25, 25-14, 25-21) to win the series 3-0.