PAOK humbles Olympiakos, advances to Cup semifinals

Defending six-time league champion Olympiakos was eliminated yesterday from the other major competition, the Greek Cup, by PAOK. PAOK, which had won the first leg of the quarterfinal encounter in Thessaloniki 3-1 last week, beat Olympiakos 2-1 away last night, thanks to first-half goals from Giorgos Georgiadis and Yiannakis Okkas, in the 30th and 32nd minute, respectively. Olympiakos, needing to score five goals to advance to the semifinals, could only manage one, through Lambros Houtos, in the 76th minute. At the end, Olympiakos’s players were booed off the pitch by disappointed fans, who demanded that the players win «at least» a record seventh straight league title, to redeem themselves. Olympiakos has an uphill job on that front, being three points behind archrival Panathinaikos. Yesterday’s loss was not the only thing that occupied Olympiakos officials, as the prospect of the team playing most of its remaining league home matches in front of empty stands loomed large. In an attempt to distance both himself and the club’s administration from a violent incident in the VIP section of Olympiakos’s home ground last Sunday, Socrates Kokkalis, currently in the USA on a business trip, expressed regret over the violence, and condemned it in a telegram sent to AEK’s president, Yiannis Granitsas, yesterday. Granitsas and a former AEK president, Stratos Gidopoulos, were attacked and beaten by a bunch of Olympiakos fans, some of whom are believed to be Kokkalis’s bodyguards. Kokkalis did not attend the match, having already departed on his trip. «I want to assure you that, under no circumstances, does such action involve the Olympiakos family…,» Kokkalis noted in his telegram, adding that he hoped the incident would not prove detrimental to the «good ties» shared by the two clubs. However, AEK has already taken action. Yesterday morning, a club lawyer pressed for disciplinary measures from EPAE, the association of professional Greek soccer clubs. He called for the enforcement of articles 29 and 30 of the Match Regulations Code, which would force Olympiakos to play three home games before empty stands. Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, who is in charge of sports issues, yesterday reiterated his call for strict implementation of the law. During a meeting with the heads of Greece’s soccer federation, EPO, and EPAE, Lianis demanded swift implementation of various measures to help eradicate hooliganism on the stadiums. Reports said that Lianis stressed the need for stricter control of organized team fan clubs. In his talks with Vassilis Gagatsis, the president of EPO, Lianis said all members would need to submit criminal records, otherwise the fan clubs would be dissolved.

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