PAOK and Atromitos crash out of Greek Cup

Last year’s finalist PAOK and six other Super League clubs dropped out of the Greek Cup upon completion of the group stage of the competition on Thursday.

PAOK failed to score a single win in three group games and finished its group of four with just two points after its goalless draw at Kerkyra on Wednesday. Kerkyra and PAS Giannina have earned the ticket to the knock-out stages from this group.

Olympiakos topped its group with a 2-0 win at second-division Fostiras on Wednesday through a controversial penalty that Costas Fortounis converted, and a goal by Dimitris Diamantakos.

New Olympiakos coach Vitor Perreira attended the game from the stands, with caretaker Antonis Nikopolidis coaching the Reds on the night.

Holder Panathinaikos also topped its group, but gave up a 2-0 lead at Hania to draw 2-2 on Thursday with the local team from the second division and allow it to advance to the next round as the group runner-up.

Sotiris Ninis scored on his return to the Greens, with Viktor Klonaridis making it 2-0, before Stelios Kritikos and Costas Pangalos scored for Hania. That game marked the first time Panathinaikos has produced an all-Greek starting XI in 23 years.

Veria and Apollon Smyrnis drew 1-1, a result that had them both qualify. Their match on Wednesday will be remembered not for any of the two goals but for the effort of Veria’s Charalambos Pavlidis (pictured left): He shot on goal, past the Apollon keeper, only to rush to the goal line challenged by a defender, and apparently prevent the goal using his hand to push the ball out. He got a yellow card for his pains, the goal did not count, and when asked after the game about it he claimed it was his opponent who had handled the ball.

AEK showed it is finally ready to return to the Super League, as its emphatic 3-0 win over Europa League qualifier Atromitos showed on Thursday. The result meant Atromitos is one of the seven Super League clubs out of the Cup. The other six are PAOK, Kalloni Lesvou, Panetolikos, Ergotelis, Platanias Hanion and Niki Volou. The Volos club actually withdrew from the competition, following its withdrawal from the Super League.

The draw for the round of 16 will take place on Friday, with group winners (Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, AEK, Asteras Tripolis, PAS Giannina, Veria, OFI Crete and Levadiakos) getting seeded. They will pick one each from the pot that includes Panionios, Kerkyra, Xanthi and Panthrakikos from the Super League, and Iraklis Thessalonikis, Apollon Smyrnis, Tyrnavos and Hania from the Football League.

Ties will be played on January 21 and 28.