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Violence mars Greek Cup final after turbulent season

Trouble spot: PAOK fans throw flares towards police © AFP / ANDREAS PAPAKONSTANTINOU

ATHENS, Greece, May 12Violent clashes between PAOK Thessaloniki and AEK Athens fans marred Saturday’s Greek Cup final at the Olympic Stadium, with two PAOK fans reported injured after a Molotov Cocktail was thrown inside their van.

One PAOK supporter was also reportedly stabbed on Friday as fans of the Thessaloniki outfit, AEK and Olympiakos fought in the capital the night before the game, which PAOK won 2-0.

The Greek government deployed 5,000 police officers to try and prevent violence.

But two riot-trained police officers were left hospitalised, according to local media reports.

A Molotov Cocktail thrown by AEK hooligans set ablaze a van with five PAOK supporters inside near the stadium.

Media reports said two of the passengers were injured after being beaten up and were taken to a local hospital.

Each team were issued only 17,196 tickets at the 69,618-capacity stadium with many gaps to keep supporters separated for safety reasons, after a season of high tension between PAOK and the Athens clubs.

For the first time in 43 years a foreign referee was used in the Greek Cup final, with 44-year-old Spaniard David Borbalan being called to duty.

Earlier this year, PAOK president Ivan Savvidis stormed onto the pitch with a holstered gun on his belt during a match against AEK, after becoming incensed over a refereeing decision.

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AEK later pipped PAOK to the Super League title after the latter’s appeal against a three-point deduction failed.

Crowd violence has been prevalent all season, with former Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia being injured in February when he was struck in the face by a cashier’s roll thrown by a PAOK fan.

On Saturday, AEK missed out on a first double since 1978 as goals from Vieirinha and Dimitris Pelkas gained PAOK a measure of revenge for their defeat in the league title race.

It was their second straight Cup final triumph over AEK, after a 2-1 win last season which was also tainted by violent incidents before the match.

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