Panathinaikos averted a Cup upset by the skin of its teeth, while Olympiakos and PAOK eased through to the quarterfinals of the competition.
The Greens had not only lost the first leg at PAS Giannina 1-0, but also found themselves trailing 2-0 on aggregate after a Nondas Pantelakis header in the first half on Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium. On top of that they also had a good goal by Emanuel Insua disallowed as offside, provoking the wrath of their players and fans alike. Cup games do not yet enjoy the luxury of the Video Assistance Referee.
Then suddenly in the second half a revitalized Panathinaikos stormed onto the pitch and scored three times in the space of 15 minutes, via Christos Donis, Bart Schenkeveld and Federico Macheda, for a 3-1 win on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, although it finished the match with 10 men.
PAOK saw off OFI with a 4-1 score at home on Wednesday (7-1 on aggregate), while crosstown rival Aris beat Xanthi for a second time, this time 2-1 in Thessaloniki, to make the last eight too.
Olympiakos downed third-division Kalamata 4-1 (6-1 on agg.) but the match at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium was more important for the return to action of Costas Fortounis after a six-month layoff.
Panetolikos eliminated Panionios in extra time at Nea Smyrni, as the goalless first leg was followed up by a similar 90 minutes on Wednesday, before the Agrinio team snatched the ticket to the quarterfinals with a 1-1 score in the additional half-hour.
There were two more gripping encounters that nearly went to extra time. On Tuesday Atromitos hosted Volos with a 3-0 cushion from its win at Volos, but its visitors scored two early goals and enjoyed a man’s advantage for 70 minutes; even so if they failed to find a third goal, they won 2-0 and dropped out of the Cup, with Atromitos going through.
Then on Wednesday Lamia drew 1-1 at home with third division leader Trikala at home having won 1-0 away; the visitors struck the crossbar five minutes into injury time, to Lamia’s relief.
On Thursday AEK grabbed a 1-1 draw at Asteras Tripolis in what was the first leg of this tie – the second leg will probably beheld on January 29. The draw for the quarterfinals will take place on January 23.