Relegation-threatened PAS Ioannina has inflicted a massive wound unto Olympiakos at Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, after holding the home side to a 2-2 draw which all but ends the Red’s title hopes for 2010.
The old saying “you make your own luck” could have been applied to Olympiakos with horrible irony given that both of PAS’s goals were attributed as own goals thanks to defenders Avraam Papadopoulos and Olaf Mellberg.
But the Reds were incredibly fortunate not to have Antonis Nikopolidis sent off after he tackled a Ioannina player to the ground outside the box in he 90th minute.
Nine out of ten referees would have issued a straight red card as he made a professional foul on a player who had passed him and was running into an open goal.
The out-of-form Olympiakos began to unravel in the 38th minute, after a long-range shot struck Papadopoulos and skewed beyond the reach of the despairing Nikopolidis in the Olympiakos goal.
But the home side got things back on track when Costas Mitroglou and Matt Derbyshire combined well a minute later for the Englishman to produce a neat finish and restore parity.
Derbyshire then turned provider, as he helped set up Lomana Lua Lua on the stroke of half-time for the Congo international to flick the ball over a PAS Ioannina defender and then poke it into the net, giving the Reds a 2-1 half time lead.
But Olympiakos could only hold on to the lead for nine minutes after the restart when another deflected shot, this time off Mellberg, looped over a helpless Nikopolidis.
Sensing that a share of the spoils was possible, Ioannina held on for a crucial draw which could be crucial as the relegation battle intensifies.
Although the point moves Olympiakos to within four points of Panathinaikos (58 to 54), if the Greens win their game in hand at Asteras Tripolis on Sunday they will be seven points clear of their rivals in third place, behind PAOK (who played Aris on Monday morning), with just four games left.
The draw helps move PAS Ioannina out of the relegation zone, at least temporarily, on goal difference.
AEK put in an impressive home performance to beat Kavala 3-0, and perhaps end the latter’s play-off hopes for 2010.
Ismael Blanco opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a penalty after an atrocious challenge in the box by Aussie Craig Moore. AEK’s second goal was either scored by Bosnian Sanel Jahic or Leonardo on 50 minutes.
Leonardo had a cracking shot on target from outside the box, but Jahic may have got a final touch on it before the ball went into the back of the net.
AEK should have had a second penalty after Raffik Djebbour was spear-tackled to the ground in the box, but oddly, the referee gave him a yellow card for simulation, leaving many an observer quizzically scratching their head.
But Gustavo Manduca rounded off a good night for Dusan Bajevic’s men with an 82nd minute goal, solidifying AEK’s Champions League credentials, as the play-offs near.
Noteworthy was the performance of Kostas Manolas, nephew of AEK legend Stelios Manolas, who was given Man Of The Match on debut. A little earlier in Athens, Atromitos beat Iraklis to essentially ensure their survival and to leave the Thessaloniki side still looking over its shoulder at the relegation zone.
Thanassis Karagounis opened the scoring for the home side in the 25th minute and Marek Saganowski added a second 10 minutes later with a powerful volley.
Grigoris Papazacharias reduced the deficit just before half-time with a long-range looping header but Iraklis were not able to rescue a point and suffered their first defeat since Jozef Bubenko took over seven games ago.
Atromitos have 35 points and should be considered well and truly safe while Iraklis, still on 31 – six above the relegation zone, are likely to need one more win.