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Rehhagel opts to stay with Greece March 31, 2008

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Greece’s most successful and longest-serving National Soccer Team coach Otto Rehhagel has agreed to extend his contract and try to lead the side to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Greek Soccer Federation announced the news in a written statement on Saturday after its President, Vassilis Gagatsis, held talks with the 69-year-old German who guided Greece to their unlikely Euro 2004 victory four years ago. No further details of Rehhagel’s contract were made public.

The German has been with Greece since September 2001 when his first game was a 5-1 home defeat to Finland. However, Rehhagel’s impact was evident just one month later when Greece almost scuppered England’s plans for qualifying for the 2002 World Cup by holding them to a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

Rehhagel then led the Greek team to just the second European Championships in its history, before shocking the world of soccer by making it to the final of Euro 2004 and beating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final. Greece reached the upcoming Euro 2008 tournament as group winners. In total, Rehhagel has been at Greece’s helm for 78 games, winning 43, drawing 16 and losing 19.

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Traianos Dellas to miss Greece’s Portugal friendly March 26, 2008

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Greece has traveled to Germany for a friendly match against Portugal in Dusseldorf tonight without key central defender Traianos Dellas.

Coach Otto Rehhagel has not called up a replacement for Dellas on the experienced squad he has chosen following experiments in recent friendlies against the Czech Republic and Finland. OFI goalkeeper Alexis Tsorvas, an impressive performer this season, is the only new face on the Greek squad.

Rehhagel is expected to decide later this week whether he will remain with Greece for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. His current contract ends after Euro 2008.

Olympiakos regains the lead March 17, 2008

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Defending champion Olympiakos, which sacked its coach Takis Lemonis last Tuesday after a 3-0 defeat at Chelsea in the Champions League, returned to the top of the Super League with just five rounds remaining after previous leader Panathinaikos was set back 3-2 at Xanthi last night.

Playing on Saturday with Lemonis’s assistant, Spaniard Jose Segura, debuting as head coach in an interim role for the season’s remainder, Olympiakos defeated Atromitos 2-0.

Third-placed AEK fell further back in the title race with a 1-1 draw against visiting Thessaloniki club Aris, one place below in the standings. Olympiakos leads with 58 points from 25 games. Panathinaikos trails two points behind. AEK is third on 53 points.

Canadian striker Tomasz Radzinski, formerly at English clubs Everton and Fulham, was the hero in Xanthi’s win over Panathinaikos, scoring all three goals for the hosts in the 10th, 58th and 68th minutes for a 3-0 lead. The visitors reacted swiftly with two goals in the 70th and 77th minutes, to almost pull off a miraculous comeback. The win lifted Xanthi to sixth in the Super League standings while Radzinski’s hat-trick elevated him to third place in the competition’s list of top-scorers with 14 goals this season.

Panathinaikos last lost in the league on December 15, and prior to Xanthi’s three-goal onslaught yesterday, had managed to keep clean sheets in all but two games of the season’s second half.

League leaders Olympiakos went ahead against Atromitos three minutes into the second half with a goal from Mirnes Sisic, the Slovenian midfielder’s first at the club since moving from Levadiakos in January. Julio Cesar wrapped up the win for Olympiakos by making it 2-0 in the 85th minute.

Also Saturday, newly-promoted Asteras Tripolis held on to an impressive fifth place, two points ahead of Xanthi, with a 1-0 win at PAOK courtesy of an injury time goal from Mauro Milano.

Also Saturday, Ergotelis beat Veria 2-0 in a relegation-zone battle. In the round’s other games, all played yesterday, it was: Iraklis 1-Panionios 0; Larissa 5-OFI 1; and Levadiakos 2-Apollon 0.

Olympiakos’ European run ends at Chelsea March 7, 2008

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Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis hopes Piraeus club will build on season’s progress > Olympiakos may have tumbled out of the Champions League’s Round of 16 after being thrashed 3-0 by star-studded Chelsea in London on Wednesday night, but the Piraeus team can consider its campaign in Europe this season a major improvement on previous efforts.

In comments following the encounter at Stamford Bridge, Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis stressed the need to keep building on this season’s progress.

On its way to the Round of 16, Olympiakos picked up an impressive 11 points from its six Group C games with wins against Werder Bremen both at home and away, Lazio in Rome, and two draws at home, against the Italian team and Real Madrid. There was just one defeat, 4-2, at Real Madrid.

Following years of mostly poor Champions League outings, the Piraeus team did earn some respect in Europe this season, but it remains distinctly below the level of the continent’s best.

Olympiakos was unable to keep up with the flow and panache of Chelsea’s game. An early Michael Ballack header in the fifth minute put Chelsea ahead – following a scoreless draw at the Karaiskaki Stadium. Olympiakos had fallen behind in all three of its group-stage away games and went on to win two of those, but there was no reaction from the Greek club on Wednesday night.

The visitors never settled into the game and were never able to establish serious ball possession. By the 25th minute, Chelsea had already taken a major step toward reaching the quarterfinals with a second goal from Frank Lampard. He tapped the ball in after goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, who played a fine game on his Greek record-breaking 53rd Champions League appearance, was unable to hold on to a powerful drive from Ballack. Chelsea sealed its place in the next round three minutes into the second half when Salomon Kalou made it 3-0 from a Lampard corner.

While all hope of a quarterfinal spot for Olympiakos was lost in London, a tribunal in Athens awarded the Piraeus team three points from a domestic league game it had lost against struggling Apollon Kalamaria. Olympiakos filed an appeal, arguing that its opponent had illegally fielded new Austrian signing Roman Wallner, who had already represented two other clubs this season. Besides losing the three points, Apollon was punished with the deduction of an additional point. But the club, which sunk deeper into the league’s three-team relegation zone, declared it will appeal at an international sports tribunal. Olympiakos moved up to second, a point behind Panathinaikos, with seven rounds of play remaining.

In other news, the Super League’s disciplinary committee handed PAOK midfielder Sergio Conceicao a one-match suspension and an 80-euro fine for a scuffle with Nikopolidis, Olympiakos’s goalkeeper, in the tunnel following a recent game in Thessaloniki. The Portuguese player was due to appear before the panel last week but encountered problems with a flight to Athens from Thessaloniki. Nikopolidis, who received the exact same punishment, has already served his suspension.

Meanwhile at AEK, currently third in the domestic league, club boss Demis Nikolaidis told reporters that no move for a new coach would be made until the end of the season.

Derby draw keeps Panathinaikos top March 3, 2008

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Panathinaikos salvaged a 1-1 draw away to AEK last night thanks to an equalizer midway through the second half from Helder Postiga that maintained the Greens’ narrow one-point lead in the battle for the Super League soccer title.

Panathinaikos leads the standings with 50 points after 22 games and with eight remaining. Olympiakos, held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Asteras Tripolis on Saturday, lies a point behind. AEK is third with 46 points.

AEK took the lead in the 67th minute when Rivaldo converted a penalty that was strongly disputed by the Panathinaikos team. The visitors equalized 11 minutes later for the final 1-1 score.

Olympiakos, preparing to face English powerhouse Chelsea in London this Wednesday night following a scoreless draw in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg, took an early lead against visiting Asteras Tripolis with a fine header from Julio Cesar in the third minute of play.

But Asteras, playing in the top division for the first time in its 77-year history, and placed fifth, struck back in the 33rd minute when Argentinean midfielder Horacio Cardozo exploited a misunderstanding in the Olympiakos defense to send in a low drive from the edge of the box.

Olympiakos striker Lomana LuaLua will miss the London clash after sustaining a shoulder injury, which, according to reports yesterday, is likely to sideline him for the season’s remainder. LuaLua joins key midfielder Luciano Galletti on the Piraeus team’s injury list. But coach Takis Lemonis expects Greece international Vassilis Torosidis to be fit again for Wednesday night.

Also Saturday, last-placed Ergotelis beat visiting PAOK 2-0. In other games, all played yesterday, it was: Levadiakos-OFI, 0-3; Xanthi-Panionios, 1-2; Apollon Kalamaria-Veria, 1-0; Larissa-Iraklis, 1-0; Aris-Atromitos, 2-0.

Chelsea bans Greeks from buying tickets March 1, 2008

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In anticipation of its next Champions League game, English club says those of Greek nationality who are not members of the team’s club will have their online orders canceled for the match against Greece

If Alexi Lalas or Peter Vagenas wanted to make a quick trip to England to watch Chelsea play Olympiakos of Greece in a European Champions League match on Wednesday, they would be out of luck.

The Galaxy supposedly has a “special relationship” with the English Premier League club, but that would not make any difference.

Lalas, the Galaxy’s president, and Vagenas, its veteran midfielder, both have Greek surnames, and Chelsea, astonishingly, is banning anyone with Greek roots from obtaining tickets to the game. Or at least those who are not official members of the club.

“Nonmembers of a Greek nationality buying tickets for the Olympiakos game will have their orders canceled,” Chelsea said on its official website.

It already has happened. English newspapers reported that one fan, Peter Pakos, had tried to buy two tickets to the match for almost $200, only to be rebuffed. “It’s incredible discrimination,” Pakos told reporters. “It’s shortsighted and clumsy. We may have a Greek background, but we’re Chelsea fans through and through.”

Stung by such unwanted publicity, Chelsea late Friday said that its policy extended only to those buying tickets online. Those buying in person would not be affected, it said.

The club said its policy was in accordance with UEFA regulations on the segregation of fans, and that it was trying to prevent Olympiakos supporters in Greece from buying tickets online for seats reserved for Chelsea fans.

Chelsea and Olympiakos tied, 0-0, in Greece in the first game and Wednesday’s winner will advance to the Champions League quarterfinals.

Olympiakos FC keeps up pressure February 11, 2008

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Darko Kovacevic scored twice to help visiting Olympiakos beat Panionios 4-0 in the Greek Super League yesterday, a result which keeps the defending champion just two points behind front-runner Panathinaikos with a game in hand.

Late on Friday night, Greek soccer’s disciplinary committee ordered a rematch between Olympiakos and lowly Apollon Kalamaria, which beat the Piraeus team in a shock victory last weekend. Olympiakos had filed an appeal arguing that the Thessaloniki team’s selection of a recent signing, Austrian international Roman Wallner, was improper because he had already represented two other clubs this season. A date for the rematch has not yet been set.

On Saturday, an improved second-half display from Panathinaikos earned the league leader a 1-0 home win over battling Veria.

The home side found it difficult to break down Veria’s resistance but found a way through when Austria captain Andreas Ivanschitz scored the winner in the 71st minute with a curled free kick from outside the area.

AEK, which had held top spot in the standings for the season’s greater part, slipped to third place following a second consecutive defeat, this time a 1-0 loss at Larissa.

Panathinaikos leads the standings with 46 points following 20 rounds of play, or exactly two-thirds of the way through the season. Olympiakos is on 44 points with a game less. AEK lies third on 42 points.

Kovacevic gave Olympiakos the lead in the fifth minute after a mix-up in the Panionios defense. Captain Predrag Djordjevic converted a penalty to make it 2-0 in the 26th after he was fouled in the area by Sekou Berthe, who was shown a red card. Kovacevic stretched the lead to 3-0 after meeting a cross from Argentinean Luciano Galletti in the 53rd. Lionel Nunez rounded off the scoring in the 82nd.

Struggling this season, Thessaloniki club PAOK, currently midtable, registered a badly needed win, 3-0, over crosstown rival Aris, which is equal fourth, 10 points behind AEK. Also yesterday, it was: Xanthi 4, Levadiakos 1; Ergotelis 2, Apollon 2; and Asteras 1, OFI 1. In the round’s other game, on Saturday, Iraklis and visiting Atromitos drew 1-1.