SPORTS

Breathtaking volleyball cup final had the Greens partying in the end

In one of the most memorable Greek Cup finals ever seen in volleyball, Panathinaikos edged out Olympiakos 3-2 on Saturday at the Faliro Sports Hall to win the sixth cup in its history. In front of a capacity crowd consisting of just schoolchildren, athletes and female fans as part of a bid to avoid violence, the Greens won the trophy in exactly the same way and circumstances in which they had lost it last year. Olympiakos took the first set 25-20, thanks to a more effective attack and repeated errors by Panathinaikos in defense. In a key move at the start of the second set, Panathinaikos coach Stelios Kazazis introduced Greece outside hitter Costas Christofidelis instead of Ilias Lappas, adding strength to the back line of the Greens, which took the second set 25-22. Olympiakos put more pressure on the net, with an impressive Dimitris Djuric making first-time spikes which Panathinaikos couldn’t stop, leading the Reds to victory in the third set with a 25-22 score. Once again, though, Panathinaikos fought its way back into the game through Liberman Agamez and Guillaume Samica improving their scoring rate and Sotiris Pantaleon stopping more attacks with his blocks, to take the final to a fifth set landing the fourth 25-23. In the tiebreaker, Olympiakos had three match points at 14-13, 15-14 and 16-15 but Panathinaikos once again fought back to take the final set 18-16 with its first match point, sparking wild celebrations among its players. Kazazis, the first Greek coach to win the cup with Panathinaikos, stated that «before the match, we had our backs to the wall. I must congratulate my players for their great effort in the game as well as congratulating Olympiakos because it knows how to fight.» Agamez, scorer of 29 points for Panathinaikos, was voted the final’s Most Valuable Player, in a game that stood out for the success of its organization in keeping hooligans out of the stands.