Bajevic, insulted by fans, abandons AEK

Defending champion Olympiakos marked its 14th league victory yesterday by trouncing Proodeftiki 4-0 to retain the lead in the Greek first division. Panathinaikos defeated Kallithea 3-0 and remains one point behind in second place. But the 18th round’s major event was the sensational walkout by AEK coach Dusan Bajevic. The Serb left the bench 30 minutes into his team’s home game against Iraklis, walked out of the stadium and drove home. AEK was leading 1-0 at the time and went on to win 4-0. Bajevic’s departure came after a group of AEK fans in the stands unfurled – not for the first time – a banner calling him a «traitor.» They also verbally insulted him. Some AEK supporters, members of the «Original» fan club, have never forgiven Bajevic for abandoning the club in 1996 to join archrivals Olympiakos. He rejoined AEK two seasons ago. Reports said that Bajevic had warned the club’s management that he would resign if the offending banner appeared during yesterday’s match. «That was my last match (with AEK),» Bajevic told reporters before taking off in his car. Other supporters, as well as players, have urged Bajevic to change his mind. He said he will explain his actions later. Bajevic’s assistant coach Takis Persias, a former Olympiakos player who has also been verbally abused, and physically attacked, by certain AEK fans for his previous services at another club, defended the Serb-Greek’s walkout. «It’s not possible for any individual to persevere under such conditions. Some mindless fans managed to get rid off a man who has offered his soul to AEK,» noted Persias. Commenting on the feelings in the dressing room afterward, Persias said Bajevic’s decision would have an emotional impact on players. «Is it possible for them to remain unaffected, now that they’ve found rhythm in their game? Judging by the way they played, I think they may have even wanted to devote this victory to him,» said Persias. AEK scored another three goals after Bajevic left and is now only two points behind PAOK. PAOK played to a 2-2 home draw against bottom-placed Akratitos Liosia on Saturday and retains third place with 37 points. The top three places earn a berth in the Champions League. In other results yesterday: Aris 1, Paniliakos 0; OFI 1, Panionios 1 and Xanthi 2, Halkidona 1. On Saturday, Aegaleo played to a scoreless draw against Ionikos Nikaia. Olympiakos had no problem in beating Proodeftiki 4-0 with a convincing performance before 8,000 spectators at the Rizoupolis stadium, used by Olympiakos as its home ground while its regular Karaiskaki stadium is being refurbished for the Summer Olympics. Pandelis Kaffes hit the bar as early as the second minute. Just four minutes later, Kaffes crossed to Giorgos Georgiadis who gave Olympiakos the lead. Kaffes made it 2-0 off a center from Uruguayan midfielder Nery Castillo in the 15th. Two minutes later, Brazilian forward Giovanni dribbled past two defenders to net his 12th goal of the season and stretch the score to 3-0. Dimitris Mavrogennidis received a deep pass in front of the Proodeftiki goal in the 33rd and easily beat Foto Strakosha to make the score 4-0. Despite its 3-0 victory, Panathinaikos was unconvincing at Kallithea. Lithuanian midfielder Raimondas Zutautas put Panathinaikos ahead in the 22nd. But for the rest of the half Panathinaikos appeared sluggish and allowed the hosts to come close to an equalizer in the 31st when a header by Yiannis Tatsis sailed over Antonis Nikopolidis’s crossbar. Dimitris Papadopoulos made it 2-0 in the 60th to the relief of fans, who had begun expressing their disappointment. Kallithea went on the attack but Pantelis Constantinidis’s 78th minute goal sealed the difficult victory for Panathinaikos. (AP, Kathimerini)

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