By Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
Panathinaikos FC took a major step towards defending their Greek title with a narrow one-goal victory against arch-rivals Olympiacos CFP in the derby, allowing AEK Athens FC to sidle into second.
Mihalis Konstantinou scored the only goal of the game, heading in Ioannis Goumas' cross two minutes before the interval as the home side opened up a three-point lead over their opponents with just five games remaining. Panathinaikos could have taken the lead sooner as Konstantinou, Theofanis Gekas and Ezequiel Gonzales all missed good early chances.
Olympiacos lifted their game in the second half, with Rivaldo coming closest to an equaliser with a 66th-minute header that Mario Galinovic tipped on to the post. But it was to no avail as the home side held on. The season is far from over, however, as Panathinaikos must still face AEK and PAOK FC in a difficult run-in.
The two sides, lying third and fourth before the round, faced each other in an eventful encounter at the Olympic stadium. PAOK had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock after just three minutes when they were awarded a penalty but Dimitris Salpingidis failed to convert and by the time Christos Maladenis fired against the crossbar on 68 minutes, PAOK were heading to a 2-0 defeat.
Goals from Alessandre Soares in the 37th and 57th minutes settled the match, of which both teams played over an hour with ten men following the dismissals of Nikolaos Lyberopoulos and Dimitrios Zografakis. Victory sees AEK move to second, a point behind the leaders, while PAOK drop to fifth after Xanthi FC leapfrogged them with a 3-0 win against Panionios NFC.
At the bottom, Kerkira FC's slim chances of survival all but disappeared with an emphatic loss at Iraklis FC, despite holding the side until five minutes after the restart. Joel Epalle put the home side ahead but Andreas Niniadis levelled just five minutes later and Kerkira looked on course for a rare point. However, four goals in the last 18 minutes condemned the side to defeat.
A 1-0 loss against Ionikos FC leaves Ergotelis FC five points adrift of safety, while the game between fellow strugglers Aris Thessaloniki FC and Apollon Kalamarias FC ended in stalemate. Elsewhere, Kallithea FC and Halkidona FC won 1-0 respectively against Egaleo FC and OFI Crete FC.
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