Soccer-Manucho off the mark as Panathinaikos stay clear

ATHENS, Mar 9 (Reuters) - Angola striker Manucho scored his first goal for Panathinaikos on Sunday as the league leaders beat Larissa 2-0 to keep clear at the top of the Greek Super League.

Manucho, who joined on loan from Manchester United after the Africa Nations Cup in January, opened his account when he converted a 61st minute Nikos Spyropoulos cross with a left-foot volley.

Larissa had been reduced to 10 men when Georgos Galitsios was sent off for a second yellow card just before halftime and four minutes from time Dimitris Salpigidis got his head on a floated freekick from Andreas Ivanschitz to make it 2-0.

With six matches remaining, Panathinaikos, in their centenary year, have 56 points, one ahead of Olympiakos while third-placed AEK Athens have 52.

Both of the other challengers for the title kept up their chase with wins on Sunday.

Olympiakos found it tough work against relegation strugglers Veria but took the points thanks to a seventh-minute goal from Christos Patsatzoglou.

AEK had a more comfortable ride with a 4-1 win against OFI Crete aided by two own goals.

Ismael Blanco put AEK ahead in the 16th minute with his 16th goal of the season. Two minutes later Minas Piitsos put through his own goal to put AEK 2-0 up.

Stelios Sfakianakis made it three goals in five minutes when he pulled one back for OFI.

AEK’s third came in the 64th minute when Cosmin Barcauan scored the games’s second own goal and Edinho completed the scoring 10 minutes from time.

Asteras Tripolis kept up their hopes of playing in Europe next season with a 1-1 draw against Ergotelis although they will be disappointed not to have beaten the league’s bottom club.

Ergotelis remain bottom of the table with 18 points but are now just one behind Apollon Kalamaria - beaten 3-0 by Atromitos - and three away from escaping the bottom three.

Editing by Padraic Halpin