PAOK defeats rival for cup

PAOK overcame Thessaloniki archrival Aris 1-0 in the Greek Cup final on Saturday night, 33 years after the two sides last met in a final match, but the encounter was overshadowed by incidents both inside and outside PAOK’s Toumba Stadium. The venue for the cup final had been decided on earlier this season. As PAOK players held the trophy aloft, the club’s second cup title in three seasons, the burning flames in the stands could not be ignored. Aris fans torched parts of empty bleachers that were kept empty to keep rival supporters at a distance and also went on a rampage outside the arena, smashing cars and property. The stadium’s 28,000-capacity seating area was reduced in an attempt to avoid violence. Fire brigade trucks were brought into the arena to extinguish intensifying patches of fire as PAOK players and fans celebrated their side’s fourth cup title in the club’s 61-year history. Some fans tossed flares onto the pitch as PAOK’s lap of honor was joined by fans and cheerleaders. Outside the stadium, police fired tear gas to disperse rioters, while six youths were arrested and four people injured, authorities said. More than 10,000 PAOK supporters participated in the rowdy celebrations that followed. All this when, just hours earlier, in a sharply contrasting scene, over 70,000 Arsenal and Southampton fans of all ages, some of them standing shoulder-to-shoulder, packed Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and generated a festive mood for the English FA Cup final. Returning to the Greek Cup final, Giorgos Georgiadis grabbed the clash’s only goal in the first half to steer PAOK toward victory against its crosstown rival. PAOK threw its players forward in the opening minutes of the game but wasted two early chances when Aris’s keeper Christos Lambakis blocked shots from Polish midfielder Mariusz Kukielka and Yiassoumis Yiassemakis. In the 23rd minute, Georgiadis gave PAOK the lead off a cross from Dimitris Markos, pausing to chip the ball over Lambakis. Aris nearly leveled in the 30th when Cameroonian striker Zoel Epalle fired a shot over PAOK’s bar from inside the area. Lambakis got his foot in the way of a goal-bound shot by Georgiadis in the 60th. Aris, desperate for a late goal, launched successive attacks, and a blistering shot from Epalle was denied by keeper Kyriakos Tohouroglou. In the 87th, South African defender Nassied Morris almost handed Aris a lifesaver, sliding to meet a cross, but his shot hit the bar. (Kathimerini/AP)

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