Fans turn against Reds

While soccer champion Olympiakos finds itself in a crisis, Panathinaikos and PAOK are celebrating what is proving to be their best season of the last five years. PAOK defeated Olympiakos 1-0 on Sunday in Piraeus, the Thessaloniki club’s first away win over the Reds in the last five years, and has sent waves of enthusiasm through Greece’s second city, at least on its black-and-white side. About 1,000 PAOK fans flooded Thessaloniki’s Macedonia Airport at night to greet the side that has gone level on points with Olympiakos and is now eight points behind Panathinaikos. Yet the result was not received so enthusiastically by Olympiakos fans. In what was its second home loss in three games at the Karaiskaki Stadium since Christmas, Olympiakos produced a performance that lacked spirit and fitness, turning its own fans against it. The hard core among them started ripping up seats and hurling them at the pitch, while the majority of fans sang scathing songs about the club owner, Sokratis Kokkalis. The atmosphere became explosive after the match as 200 Olympiakos fans tried to make their way to the dressing rooms before being repelled by police, while another 800 headed to the club’s training ground at Rendi, some of them carrying wooden sticks, according to reports. In view of this situation the Olympiakos players were advised against going to collect their cars from Rendi and chose instead to leave the stadium by taxi. All this came less than a week after the sacking of Brazilian coach Zico and his replacement by former scout Bozidar Bandovic. In contrast, Panathinaikos is enjoying its eight-point advantage at the top following its scoreless draw at Aris, but coach Nikos Nioplias warned his players against complacency during yesterday’s training session. «We have a very tough derby ahead of us,» said Nioplias, referring to Sunday’s home match with Athens rival AEK. The latter won on Sunday after two straight draws, beating PAS Giannina 3-1 at the Olympic Stadium.

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