ATHENS – With senior Olympiakos players rested for the Champions League round of 16, it took a 37-year-old who seldom leaves the bench to wake up his team and ensure a 4-2 victory over visiting Platanias in the Greek league.
When Argentine midfielder Ariel Ibagaza checked in in the 66th minute, the score had been 1-1 for almost half an hour. Platanias’ nine-strong defense had performed so well that the defending champions had threatened only twice, from a corner kick and free kick.
Four minutes later, Ibagaza’s crisp passing was responsible for two goals. Although Platanias pulled one back, victory was not in doubt for Olympiakos, which added a fourth goal minutes later.
Another plus for Olympiakos coach Michel was seeing all three of his new signings score.
In the 68th, Nelson Valdez, on loan from Abu Dhabi’s Al Jazira, scored his first for the Greek champions from close range, after a pass from Ibagaza was chested down for him by Javier Saviola.
Two minutes later, Ibagaza provided the cross which Hernan Perez, acquired from Villarreal, headed in his for second league goal. In the 78th, Perez provided the assist for Ivan Marcano, back with the Greek team after a couple of seasons, on loan from Russia’s Rubin Kazan, to become Olympiakos’ 18th player to score this season.
Michael Olaitan opened the scoring for Olympiakos in the 28th off Yannis Maniatis’ pass, and David Torres headed in the equalizer in the 37th.
The win gave Olympiakos, still undefeated after 25 rounds, a 20-point lead over second-place PAOK, which travels to fifth-place Asteras on Feb. 16. Platanias was third from bottom.
Third-place Atromitos lost 1-0 at Levadiakos and stayed two points behind PAOK. Also, Xanthi beat Kalloni 1-0.