SPORTS

AEK pitch invasion highlights incurable situation in Greek game

Olympiakos scored a last-minute goal at AEK that gave it the ticket to the Greek Cup semifinals; it also triggered a pitch invasion by AEK supporters that led to the abandonment of the game at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, a few hours before the government announces its decision on whether the Super League games of this weekend will be held behind closed doors or not.

AEK players and fans protested that Argentine striker Franco Jara used his arm to score and that there was a foul on Markos Dounis before the ball entered the AEK area, but all this is no excuse for the behavior of a few dozen of AEK hooligans who stormed the pitch to chase the Olympiakos players off it while others threw torn-out seats and flares at them.

They also chased Olympiakos manager Vitor Pereira (pictured), who was seen to make obscene gestures at them upon celebrating his team’s goal. This is the second time the Portuguese coach has been seen to offend opponents’ fans after gesturing at Panathinaikos supporters last month to trigger another fan invasion then.

The referee abandoned the Cup game, in accordance with the new, stricter rules imposed since last week, with the result being 1-0 in Olympiakos’s favor, meaning that the Reds are advancing on a 2-1 aggregate score.

The sad ending to the encounter does no justice to the majority of the 65,000 AEK fans who filled the Olympic Stadium to capacity and created a great atmosphere in the hope of seeing their team rival the Greek champion, only to return home disgusted. They did not even get to see a good game anyway, as most of it was spent on fruitless efforts and time-wasting.

Toward the end Olympiakos, which needed to score, started to turn the screw, it hit the woodwork and then got to score that all-important goal that banishes the nightmare of elimination to a second-division AEK. The result also extends the tenure of Pereira on the Piraeus club’s bench as it put an end to string of poor results.

The draw for the semifinals will take place next Tuesday, with Olympiakos, Xanthi, Apollon Smyrnis and Iraklis Thessalonikis participating.

As for AEK, the fate awaiting it will be tough, since it will not only have to play between two and four league matches at home behind closed doors in the Football League, but it will probably see its points tally shrink by three this season and start the next one on minus two.