By George Georgakopoulos
Panathinaikos won the 14th Greek Cup in its history and the first trophy in the post-Obradovic era, defeating archrival Olympiakos 81-78 on Sunday in a final marred once again by fan action.
Even though there were no more than 900 fans from each team at the indoor arena of Elliniko, police were unable to control them, resulting in two players getting injured, the game being interrupted for just under an hour in the first half and then continued in front of virtually empty stands.
Six days after their loss to Olympiakos in Piraeus for the league, the Greens were better than their opponents almost throughout the final, leading from start to finish with the exception of the 37th minute when the Reds led 72-71 for a few seconds.
Guided by Dimitris Diamantidis, the game’s top scorer with 19 points, and Roko Ukic, who followed with 18 points, Panathinaikos was dominant in defense and attack, as at one point it had 12 rebounds against just two, and stretched its lead up to 17 points (37-20).
After a half-time score of 41-30, Olympiakos cut the distance to 45-43, but the Greens responded with 11 unanswered points to advance 56-43. And when Olympiakos led 72-71, Panathinaikos regained the upper hand with a 79-72 score that its opponent was unable to overturn in the end with a last-gasp three-point shot by Vassilis Spanoulis.
It was the first trophy for Panathinaikos coach Argyris Pedoulakis, after replacing Zeljko Obradovic last summer.
Ukic was voted MVP of the final, while Diamantidis, the Panathinaikos captain, lifted the cup with the help of club president Dimitris Giannakopoulos and his uncle Thanasis Giannakopoulos, putting an end to the two relatives’ feud over administrative practices.
The dark side of the final was evident from before tip-off. A flare hurled by Panathinaikos fans struck Olympiakos’s Kyle Hines on the head, but the US forward was able to take part in the game.
The worst came 13 minutes into the match, when a tussle between Olympiakos’s Pero Antic and Panathinaikos’s Stephane Lasme sparked clashes between fans at the VIP stand, which in turn brought about an invasion by Olympiakos and Panathinaikos fans onto the court. In the mayhem that followed, with fierce clashes between Olympiakos fans and riot police, Panathinaikos guard Mike Bramos was injured and needed stitches after being hit by a stone, although Panathinaikos claimed he had a stab wound.
The referees ordered the evacuation of the stands where the die-hard supporters of the two teams had been seated, which revealed that dozens of seats had been ripped out and thrown onto the court.
As if all that had not been enough, Olympiakos failed to appear for the awarding of trophies in the end in protest for the referees’ decisions.