Thrashing spoils campaign

Panathinaikos was demolished 4-0 by Paris St Germain in the French capital Wednesday night, a result that seriously detracts from the Greek club’s accomplishment of ending top in its UEFA Cup group, despite the heavy loss. The Athens Club topped Group G with seven points from its four games, two ahead of Paris St Germain and Hapoel Tel Aviv. All three advanced to the competition’s next stage. The Israeli club got the point it needed with a 1-1 draw at home to last-placed Mlada Boleslav, which was ousted from the competition. So, too, was Rapid Bucharest. The top three teams from the competition’s eight groups, as well as the eight teams that ended third in their respective Champions League groups, go into a pool of 32 for knockout home-and-away ties all the way to the final. In the next stage, Panathinaikos will be joined by one more Greek club, AEK, which ended third in its Champions League group. The draw for the next round of play will be held today. PSG skipper Pauleta lobbed Panathinaikos goalkeeper Pierre Ebede Owono for the game’s opening goal on 28 minutes. The home side opened the second half frenetically to blitz Panathinaikos in the first 10 minutes and secure victory. Pauleta scored his second with a low shot from inside the box to double PSG’s lead three minutes after the half-time break. Ivory Coast striker Bonaventure Kalou then netted twice within five minutes to complete the rout. Paris St Germain breathed a sigh of relief after its game against visiting Panathinaikos ended incident-free. The PSG supporters were under close scrutiny with around 2,000 police on duty. The ground was far from full, the lower section of one of the stands where PSG’s most extreme fans traditionally assemble having been closed on police orders until further notice. «If playing in a half-empty stadium is the solution to some problems, we’ll do it,» said Kalou, who scored twice. «We know that our true fans will always come.» A policeman shot dead 25-year-old Julien Quemener and injured another fan while under attack from supporters after PSG’s previous home UEFA Cup match, a 4-2 defeat by Hapoel Tel Aviv on November 23. Witnesses said the policeman opened fire on a mob of PSG fans who were chasing a Jewish supporter of Israeli team Hapoel outside the stadium. The fan’s death triggered a nationwide debate about how to free soccer from violence and racism in France. PSG, experiencing their worst start to a season and lying a miserable 15th in France’s Ligue 1, will now host Nice in a game that was initially scheduled for tomorrow night but has been moved to Sunday afternoon for security reasons. (Reuters, Kathimerini)

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