Depleted PAO wins at EA Patras

The regular volleyball season ended yesterday with Panathinaikos edging out EA Patras 3-1 away in the top-of-the-table clash that gave the Greens the home advantage for the playoffs. In what was a very entertaining game played before a well-behaved capacity crowd in Patra, Panathinaikos dropped the first set to the host 25-18 but bounced back despite injuries to win the next three 22-25, 23-25 and 23-25. Panathinaikos is usually led by impressive opposite Liberman Agamez, but yesterday the Colombian was withdrawn to the bench during the first set after scoring in only one out of five final efforts and replaced by Stathis Donas. By scoring 20 points and with 15 out of 21 successful final efforts, it was Donas who took the Greens by the hand and led them to a valuable win that makes Panathinaikos favorite for the title. In the weekend’s games, Apollon Kalamarias ensured it will not have to enter the relegation playouts thanks to a 3-0 win over Kifissia. Iraklis beat AEK 3-1 in Athens, Aris beat PAOK 3-1 away in an ill-tempered Thessaloniki derby, Panellinios leaped to sixth spot after returning victorious from Lamia (3-1) and Olympiakos thrashed Foinikas Syrou 3-0 at home. The pairs for the best-of-three first round of the playoffs are thus as follows: Panathinaikos vs PAOK, Iraklis vs Aris, Olympiakos vs Panellinios and EA Patras vs Lamia. As a result, the likely opponents in the best-of-five semifinals will be Panathinaikos vs Iraklis and EA Patras vs Olympiakos. Unless the supreme sports tribunal (ASEAD) overturns the decision that relegates AEK due to debts to former players, Kifissia and Foinikas will fight it out for a place in next season’s A1 division. The playouts will be determined through a best-of-five series of games.

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