ATHENS (Reuters) – Panathinaikos fans caused further controversy when an offensive banner protesting at crowd sanctions against the club and aimed at Greece’s deputy minister for sport delayed Sunday’s 2-0 away win at Levadiakos.
The start of the second half was halted for 25 minutes because of the large banner targeting Stavros Kontonis, which match officials ordered to be removed before play could begin.
The slogan, which was directed at Kontonis because he signed off the sanctions, contained abuse, described him as a left- wing fascist, and said “Nobody messes with the people of Panathinaikos…”
Kontonis’ ministry fined Panathinaikos 90,000 euros ($97,092.00) and partially closed a section of their Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium where the team’s famous Gate 13 Ultras are housed for disturbances last November at the Athens derby against Olympiakos.
The Greens had already been deducted three points, forfeited the Nov. 21 match with a 0-3 scoreline, received a four-match supporter ban and been fined 190,000 euros by league authorities.
On the pitch, second-half goals from Swedish striker Marcus Berg and Ghana midfielder Michael Essien — his first strike since playing for Real Madrid in June 2013 — were enough for the Greens to remain in third spot and within four points of second-placed AEK Athens.
The “logic of football” means the club should be allowed its fans, said Berg.
“They mean so much to us and we need to have them always by our side,” he told reporters. “I don’t agree with the decision to close Gate 13 and from here and onwards we want to have them with us at all games.”
Elsewhere, Ronald Vargas scored the only goal of the game as AEK defeated PAOK Salonica 1-0 at the Olympic Stadium to cement their grip on second spot behind runaway Super League leaders Olympiakos Piraeus.
Gus Poyet’s AEK have made a superb return to the top flight this season having been relegated to Greece’s third tier three years ago because of financial problems.
The Athens club are 16 points adrift of Olympiakos, who completed a 1-0 home win over Skoda Xanthi on Saturday thanks a goal from Mexico striker Alan Pulido.
($1 = 0.9270 euros)
(Reporting by Graham Wood. Editing by Rob Hodgetts)