SPORTS

AEK beats Atromitos 3-0 to win chaotic Greek Cup final

AEK has won its first trophy in almost a decade after beating Atromitos 3-0 in the Greek Cup Final at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday but the gloss was taken off the win due to several pitch invasions and clashes between AEK fans and Atromitos players at the end of the game.

The scoreline flattered the Yellows but they were much better at taking their chances than their lowly rivals. Goals from Nikos Liberopoulos in the first half and Nabil Baha and Pantelis Kafes in the second sealed the win for AEK.

Although the game had plenty of talking points, the attention will once again fall on what was going on in the stands rather than on the pitch.

The signs were not good from the start, when AEK and Atromitos fans threw flares at each other as the national anthem was being played before the game.

Things settled down in the stands and the breakthrough for the favorites came in the 29th minute when Nacho Scocco crossed for Liberopoulos to head past Charles Itandje.

Replays showed that the veteran striker was in an offside position. The goal prompted a small pitch invasion by exuberant AEK fans

The joy for AEK was tempered by the fact that Scocco limped off moments later to be replaced by Baha.

Atromitos began the second half well and went close with two headers in the first 10 minutes as they turned up the pressure on the Super League?s third-placed club.

The decisive moment came 20 minutes later as Liberopoulos missed a teasing cross but the ball hit the back of substitute Pantelis Kafes? leg to rebound straight into the path of Baha, who slotted it home.

This prompted more AEK fans to spill onto the running track around the pitch at the Olympic Stadium and the last few minutes were played with hundreds of people standing within meters of the players.

AEK completed its win in the 86th minute when Kafes chipped the ball over the Atromitos goalkeeper.

However, the closing stages of the game proved the most controversial. Referee Tasos Kakos had signaled he would play eight minutes of injury time but the game seemed to end after just three extra minutes.

As the players left the field, some of the Atromitos squad clashed with AEK supporters that had run onto the pitch and appeared to be targeting people sitting in the VIP section of the stands. Commentators suggested that the AEK fans were trying to attack Atromitos representatives and players? relatives, which officials and players from the Peristeri club later confirmed.

A few minutes after the apparent end of the game, it emerged that Kakos had not blown the final whistle but that he signaled for the players to leave the field because so many fans had gathered around it. But the prospect of the players returning to play the remaining minutes seemed impossible because AEK fans had torn the nets from the goals and the pitch was strewn with advertising hoardings, chairs and other debris.

According to state television NET, Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) officials and representatives of both sides spoke to Kakos and it was decided that the extra minutes would not be played and the cup would be awarded to AEK.

AEK?s win ? the club?s first trophy since 2002 ? was tarnished by the events at the end of the game and celebrations will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the ensuing argument over who was to blame for the lack of order and by Atromitos?s complaints about the circumstances of its defeat.