SPORTS

Akpom seals PAOK’s first ever double

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Soccer

PAOK completed on Saturday the first double in its history, as in the Greek Cup final played behind closed doors at the Olympic Stadium of Athens it beat AEK 1-0 with a wonderful goal by Chuba Akpom.

The former Arsenal striker scored at the end of the first half to seal PAOK’s third consecutive Cup triumph and seventh overall, that completes the club’s best ever season.

The match was quite entertaining for the 900 fans and the 3,000 police officers in the stadium for fear of hooligan clashes, such as those in the previous finals between the two teams, in 2017 in Volos and last year in Athens.

AEK started off the better team in the first half-hour, missing a couple of decent chances, PAOK responded with two chances of its own before Dmytro Chygrynskiy saw his effort cleared right on the line by PAOK keeper Alexandros Paschalakis.

A few minutes later, the final’s moment of magic arrived: PAOK captain Dimitris Pelkas dashed into the area, crossed the ball toward the penalty spot and Akpom, his ball toward the goal lifted his body from the ground and performed a quasi-bicycle kick to beat keeper Vassilis Barkas right on the completion of the 45 minutes.

In the second half AEK put some pressure, introduced a couple of fresh strikers, but its momentum appeared to evaporate as the game went on and PAOK’s confidence grew stronger.

Eventually PAOK managed to beat AEK for the third final in a row, leaving the Yellows without a trophy. Akpom was also voted the Most Valuable Player of the final.

This was the first match the Video Assistant Referee was consulted in Greece, but without needing to change any referee decisions.

Even though no more than 120 invitations were handed to each finalist, it appeared that many of the 600 invitations distributed by the Hellenic Football Federation had ended up in the hands of hardcore PAOK supporters. Seated at the VIP area of the Olympic Stadium they caused some trouble before the game, clashing with riot police.

Twenty minutes before kick-off the police demanded their departure from that stand so that they would go and sit where the invitations to PAOK fans were destined for. They did not move and the match started an d ended without any further problems.

The run-up to the final was also marred by fan action, with AEK supporters on motorbikes clashing with police late on Friday and several bangers hurled at the hotel where the PAOK squad rested before the final in Athens.

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