SPORTS

With one game left, Panathinaikos secures soccer title after six years

Panathinaikos captured its 20th soccer league title yesterday – the first in six years – after defeating Iraklis 2-0 at home in front of some 55,000 ecstatic fans at the Olympic Stadium, while PAS Giannina got relegated. The Greens had needed just one point from their two remaining matches but they stormed into the game with a Djibril Cisse goal some 30 seconds from kickoff. They went on to dominate the game, with a party atmosphere prevalent in the stands, and scored a spectacular second goal at the end of the first half via a powerful volley by Sotiris Ninis. Had they not been so wasteful of energy in the second half, they would have taken the score far higher, but the fans did not seem to care. At the end of the game, many spectators stormed the pitch and stripped several of the Panathinaikos players practically naked while taking several items – such as the goal nets – as souvenirs of the season during which Panathinaikos finally put an end to the five-year domestic domination of Olympiakos. «We dedicate winning this title to the fans,» said President Nikolas Pateras, «as it would have not been possible without their support.» The Reds had a rather quiet evening in Komotini, defeating relegated Panthrakikos 2-0 through first-half goals by Vasilis Torosidis and Costas Mitroglou, but are worried about the condition of English striker Matt Derbyshire who limped off injured. In the battle to avoid the drop, Xanthi pulled itself out of the relegation zone through its 2-1 home win over Atromitos and now has the advantage over Levadiakos, which could only get a goalless draw at home with AEK. PAS Giannina, however, is mathematically relegated after going down 3-1 against Ergotelis on Crete. PAOK remained two points behind Olympiakos in third after defeating Kavala 1-0, while cross-town rival Aris suffered a 2-1 loss at Asteras Tripolis that confirmed the Peloponnesian side’s Super League status for yet another season. The same goes for Larissa, which had a terrific performance at Panionios to win 3-0. The hosts were booed off the pitch by their own fans in Nea Smyrni. With one more game left to play until the end of the regular season, Panathinaikos has 67 points, followed by the four teams to enter the playoffs: Olympiakos with 61, PAOK with 59, AEK with 50 and Aris with 46. Kavala (38), Iraklis (37), Larissa (37), Ergotelis (36), Asteras Tripolis (36), Panionios (36) and Atromitos (35) are all safe, while Xanthi with 32 and Levadiakos with 31 are anxiously waiting for the last round of games on Sunday. PAS Giannina on 28 and Panthrakikos on 12 points have been relegated.