By George Georgakopoulos
Sweden’s Marcus Berg scored a hat trick as Panathinaikos beat PAOK 4-1 in the final of the Greek Cup to claim its first trophy since 2010 in a gripping game at the Olympic Stadium of Athens on Saturday.
The Greens showed more determination in their game, produced more chances and defended passionately, while PAOK enjoyed plenty of possession but seemed toothless in attack and only got to score from the penalty spot when the destination of the cup was already decided.
Panathinaikos dominated the game in the first half-hour, when it scored once and missed two big chances to add to its tally.
Berg opened the score on the 15th minute after a Nano corner kick from the left as he powered the ball home from near the penalty spot.
PAOK responded with 10 minutes of torrential attacks, with Greece international striker Dimitris Salpingidis hitting the crossbar on the 37th with the goal at his mercy and then narrowly missing the ball after a cross from the left at the end of the first half.
The Greens determined the fate of the final with two goals within three minutes at the start of the second half. First it was Berg who scored his second goal on the 50th from a Giorgos Koutroubis pass, and then Nikos Karelis added Panathinaikos’s third with a header from close range on the 53rd.
Zvonimir Vukic made it 3-1 for PAOK from the penalty spot in the 70th minute, but it was no more than a consolation goal for the Thessaloniki club.
The only thing left was the completion of Berg’s hat-trick three minutes from the end with a spectacular goal that would have made him man-of-the-match even without having scored two goals earlier in the evening. Such was the respect universally expressed for Berg that Panathinaikos captain Zeca grabbed the Swedish striker’s jersey, laid it on the ground and started bowing to it.
The match was stopped for a minute with the score at 3-0 when a banger from the Panathinaikos fans went off right next to PAOK's Miroslav Stoch.
Notably after the final whistle the Panathinaikos players went toward the PAOK supporters to applaud them for their behavior in the final, and got some applause from them too.
The final was preceded by clashes between Panathinaikos fans and the police inside the stadium, while authorities detained 119 fans and arrested 51 before kick-off.
There were several violent incidents as hundreds of coaches with PAOK fans crossed Greece to reach Athens and got attacked with petrol bombs at least twice, while a cafeteria at Kolonaki, in central Athens, looked like a battlefield early in the afternoon when a handful of PAOK fans were attacked by people bearing no scarves or jerseys.