Soccer-Olympiakos banish European woes with win over Aris

By Graham Wood

ATHENS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Olympiakos Piraeus put their Europa League disappointments firmly behind them on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Aris Salonica which tightened their grip on the Super League title.

Michel's team, who were dumped out of the Europa League last 32 by Levante 4-0 on aggregate on Thursday, had too much quality for second bottom Aris as goals from Rafik Djebbour and Giannis Maniatis sealed a deserved win for the Greek champions.

The success maintained Olympiakos' 16-point lead at the summit with seven matches to play. Second-placed Asteras Tripolis were 1-0 winners at home to Levadiakos.

Super League top scorer Djebbour notched his 18th goal of the season by bundling home from a corner after nine minutes and Maniatis made it 2-0 with a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area before Nikos Aggeloudis set up a tense finish with a strike for the visitors just after the hour mark.

"Every win brings confidence and we needed it after the match with Levante which we are still very bitter and disappointed about," Olympiakos and Greece defender Kostas Manolas told reporters.

"I think we are over our European exit now and we can focus on going for the double which is our basic target for the remainder of the season and something I believe we can achieve."

Elsewhere on Sunday, AEK Athens' recent revival suffered a setback after they were beaten 2-1 in Crete by Platanias.

Strugglers AEK looked to have done enough to earn a draw after Xenofon Fetsis equalised Thomas Nazlidis' opener for the hosts, but Ilias Anastasakos clinched the points for Platanias with a penalty 15 minutes from time.

It was the Yellows' first defeat since a 3-1 loss on Jan. 5 to Asteras and they sit four points above the relegation zone after collecting 26 points from 23 matches.

Panathinaikos finally returned to winning ways on Saturday in a 3-1 victory over OFI Crete at the Olympic Stadium, Spanish striker Toche scoring twice to add to Stergos Marinos' opener.

The win was the Greens' first since a 2-1 success at Atromitos on Jan. 27 and saw them move up to seventh in the table.

"What we need to do is to forget the past. Our psychology in the dressing room can only improve by picking up victories. There are still seven games to play for and we have to reach the play-offs (for the European spots)," Toche told reporters.

PAOK Salonica maintained their grip on third sport with a comfortable 3-1 home win over bottom club Kerkyra on Saturday courtesy of a Dimitris Salpigidis double and a close range effort by Stefanos Athanasiadis. (Reporting by Graham Wood; Editing by Mark Meadows;; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging:;