Fans mar Panathinaikos triumph
Panathinaikos managed to beat archrival Olympiakos 101-94 at home late on Sunday despite the absence of its captain, Dimitris Diamantidis, to win a ninth consecutive basketball title, but the match was marred by fan action.
The game at the Olympic Sports Hall was a great basketball show with two of the best teams in Europe, but was tainted by Panathinaikos fans who repeatedly hurled objects onto the court and forced referees to stop the game several times.
The contest was evenly balanced in regulation time despite the injury sustained by Diamantidis just one-and-a-half minutes into the first period, which deprived Panathinaikos of this season’s best player in Europe.
It therefore fell to Antonis Fotsis to rise to the oc- casion and become the hero for the European champion, which won its 13th title in the last 14 years.
It always looked as if it would go down to the wire, and it did. The tense finale of the fourth period saw the two teams level at 83-83, the highest score of all their meetings in the finals.
Jamon Gordon’s five fouls cost Olympiakos during overtime, while Vassilis Spanoulis’s lack of concentration deprived the Reds of some crucial points.
At the other end Fotsis scored one three-pointer after another to end the match with six out of six.
Three-and-a-half seconds before the end of the overtime, with the score already at 101-94, a number of fans stormed the court to celebrate. The Olympiakos players rushed to the locker room and only returned after five minutes for the match to finish under the threat of another invasion.
Fotsis ended the game with 22 points, while Mike Batiste grabbed another 22 for the new champion. Spanoulis scored 18 for Olympiakos.
Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic did not mince his words: “I am not happy because of some people who entered the court. Those people must stop. The other fans must stop them.”
He then went on to confess his pride at what the team achieved this season: “This year could be the best season I have had here. In 2007 and 2009 we may have won the triple-crown, but this year, though, I feel prouder of the team, because last summer nobody thought we would get to the Euroleague final and win it and then win this title too, except for us!”