PAOK pulls out of semi-final against Olympiakos, while AEK scrapes past Atromitos
Macedonian club PAOK Thessaloniki pulled out of the Greek Cup on Wednesday when its Russian-born owner Ivan Savvidis decided not to let his club play its semi-final second leg tie against Olympiakos because his conditions had not been met.
The match was set to be played behind closed doors after a decision by the Greek government to play the rest of the competition with no supporters. The decision came about following crowd violence during the first leg of the tie played on 3 March, when PAOK fans invaded the pitch as their side was losing and had claims for a late penalty, which was not awarded.
Following that game, which never ended and was awarded to Olympiakos nil-3, Savvidis warned he would not bring his team to Athens for the second leg unless a foreign referee was appointed and Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) president Giorgos Girtzikis resigned.
Neither of those two demands were met and Savvidis lived up to his threat, with PAOK not showing up for the game.
“PAOK FC has decided not to play today at the Georgios Karaiskaki Stadium and, believe me, this decision was not easy,” Savvidis said in a statement.
“Our declaration to not participate further in the competition following the unprecedented lawlessness at our Toumba Stadium two months ago began an irreversible process for the cleansing of Greek football, and I’m glad PAOK is playing a leading role in this movement.”
PAOK could face serious disciplinary action, including point deductions for next season’s Greek Super Lague. However, Savvidis said he was prepared to make sacrifices if it meant a cleaner, healthier Greek football.
“Greek football is experiencing a deep crisis – healthy and fair forces are fighting against a well-organised and corrupt system,” he said. “We must unite our efforts and show the need to protect the value of sports in this country because justice and dignity are above the interests of any particular club. In this struggle sometimes there will be losses, and PAOK is ready to sacrifice. I believe that in the end, Greek football will come out of this process as the winner.”
Olympiakos was once again awarded the game 3-nil, and with it qualified for the final on 7 May, where it will take on rival AEK Athens at the Olympic Stadium, in another game to be played behind closed doors.
AEK qualified for the final by defeating Atromitos 2-1 on aggregate. A 1-nil win for AEK in the first leg last week was followed by a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.
Atromitos went ahead early in the second half through a penalty scored by Brazilian Luiz Brito after AEK defender Vassilis Lambropoulos handled the ball in the box.
With the game looking like it was headed for extra-time, AEK then drew level in the dying minutes when a beautifully weighted cross by Spanish defender Didac Villa found Algerian striker Rafik Djebbour who slotted the ball home to send AEK to the final.