SPORTS

PAO stretches lead as all its rivals go down

Panathinaikos is now the huge favorite to finish first in the volleyball league’s regular season after all its rivals lost in the weekend’s matches. The league leaders have opened a six-point gap at the top, thanks to their easy 3-0 home win over bottom side Ethnikos Alexandroupolis. However the Greens still have another five home games behind closed doors following the penalty imposed on them last week for the riots caused by fans in the Greek cup final-eight in Patras two weeks ago. Olympiakos suffered a shock 3-1 loss at home to unfavored Aris in Piraeus. Just a few days before the crucial return leg of the CEV Cup against Panathinaikos on Thursday, Olympiakos appeared weighed down by the absence of its fans and of setter Vassilis Kournetas, who is likely to miss the European fixture as well. Third-placed EA Patras fought out a tough match at PAOK and went down 3-2 in Thessaloniki to close the gap with Olympiakos to just three points, before hosting Panathinaikos next weekend. Iraklis in fourth also suffered a shocking home loss, going down 3-2 to lowly Kifissia due to its numerous absentees. In the game held on Syros last night, local club Finikas managed to overcome fellow newly promoted Apollon Kalamarias and win 3-2, while on Saturday Lamia thrashed visiting Milon 3-0. Panathinaikos leads the table with 43 points, ahead of Olympiakos with 37, EA Patras with 34 and Iraklis with 31.