- Associated Press - Saturday, April 26, 2014

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Marcus Berg scored a hat trick to lead Panathinaikos to a 4-1 triumph over PAOK in the Greek Cup final on Saturday.

Nikos Karelis also scored for Panathinaikos. Zvonimir Vukic scored PAOK’s consolation goal.

It was the 18th Cup title, and the first since 2010, for Panathinaikos.

At least 34 people were arrested before the game for possession of fireworks, wooden and metal poles, and drugs. Most were arrested around the Athens Olympic Stadium.

Berg notched the first goal in the 15th minute. The Swedish forward met Nano’s corner from the left with a header, which bounced off the back of PAOK defender Juan Insaurralde. Berg blasted in the rebound.

After dominating the early going, Panathinaikos fell back on defense, allowing PAOK to create scoring opportunities toward the end of the half.

Panathinaikos started the second half aggressively and soon exposed PAOK’s defense. In the 50th, after PAOK failed to clear a corner kick, Giorgos Koutroubis passed to Berg on the right wing. The latter looked as if he might cross, but, seeing PAOK goalkeeper Panayotis Glykos out of position, scored from a tight angle.

Four minutes later, and after Panathinaikos missed a couple of chances, Nano took another corner kick and Karelis rose over three standing defenders to head the ball in.

PAOK coach Giorgos Georgiadis immediately made two substitutions, but this hardly helped his team’s effectiveness.

In the 70th, Panathinaikos’ Mehdi Abeid brought down Lino inside the area and Vukic converted the penalty.

In the 88th, Berg found himself at the end of a long pass on the break. He wrong-footed Insaurralde and closed the scoring with a low drive.

Fear of violence prompted extraordinary security precautions. About 4,000 police patrolled the streets of Athens, and fans were forbidden to congregate in large areas of the Greek capital.

Also, fears of an ambush against the more than 300 buses carrying PAOK supporters from their home city of Thessaloniki, 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Athens, led the police to recommend the buses space their arrivals.

The first vehicles left Thessaloniki before midnight on Friday. Police stopped all buses at the toll station closest to Athens, some 34 kilometers (21 miles) from the capital, where all PAOK supporters had to show their tickets and identification. Buses were allowed to proceed in groups of 20 and some PAOK fans were already seated in the Olympic Stadium more than five hours before the 8 p.m. kickoff.

Although the teams’ fans were separated by a wide neutral zone, they started throwing flares at each other inside the stadium, after supposedly having passed through three control cordons outside the venue. The incidents subsided quickly, however.

Two couples wearing PAOK’s black-and-white colors were attacked and slightly injured at a central Athens cafe on Saturday afternoon.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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