AEK, Olympiakos share the lead

Demis Nikolaidis led AEK to a 1-0 victory in Xanthi yesterday to keep the Athens side level with Olympiakos at the top of Greece’s first-division soccer league. The two teams have 10 points each after four rounds. Four days after its 6-2 rout of Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, Olympiakos on Saturday trounced Akratitos 4-0. Panathinaikos struggled to end its three-game losing streak, notching a victory with a penalty to beat Ionikos 1-0 away. The victory averted a serious crisis at the club and won a reprieve for Portuguese coach Fernando Santos. In Xanthi, AEK resisted a series of attacks by the hosts, including one by Thanassis Prittas whose shot from the six-yard area went wide in the 10th minute. A minute later, Vassilis Tsartas passed to Nikolaidis in the hosts’ area to mark the game’s only goal. AEK – which plays Italy’s Roma in Athens on Wednesday in the Champions League – nearly scored again in the 15th with a powerful shot by Theo Zagorakis which skimmed past Yurai Busek’s post. Xanthi pressed for the equalizer after the rest period and almost succeeded in the 56th when a diagonal shot by Yiannis Papadimitriou went wide. Ilja Ivic, one-on-one with Busek, failed to mark AEK’s second goal in the 60th when the Slovakian keeper stopped his shot with his leg. Panathinaikos fought hard to beat a sturdy Ionikos. Desperate for a win, the visitors launched successive attacks but could not penetrate the Ionikos defense. The hosts came close to a goal when a shot by Portuguese defender Ferreira King went over Antonis Nikopolidis’s crossbar in the 24th. Two minutes into the second half, Takis Fyssas handicapped his team when he saw a second yellow card. In the 59th, Ferreira was also sent off after bringing Giorgos Karagounis down in the area. Angelos Bassinas netted the game’s winner from the penalty spot. (AP)