ATHENS (Reuters) - A superb hat-trick from Swedish striker Marcus Berg helped Panathinaikos end a four-year wait for silverware with a 4-1 win over PAOK Salonica in the Greek Cup final on Saturday.
Midfielder Nikos Karelis was also on the scoresheet for Giannis Anastasiou’s dominant team at the Olympic Stadium as the Greens lifted the trophy for the 18th time.
It was their first silverware since they won the domestic league and cup double in the 2009-10 season.
Giorgos Georgiadis’ PAOK side got a consolation goal with a penalty by Zvonimir Vukic but missed suspended striker Stefanos Athanasiadis and influential midfielder Kostas Katsouranis.
“Today is a day of joy for Panathinaikos, especially for the kids who believed in themselves and the team,” Anastasiou said.
“It is a huge success for these guys who few people believed in at the start of the season. They have demonstrated that they have the ability and that better days are ahead of us.”
A thunderstorm before kickoff made for a suitably damp pitch for Panathinaikos’ slick passing game, with captain Zeca drawing a fine save from PAOK’s Panagiotis Glykos in the first minute.
The Greens grabbed an early stranglehold on the match when Berg smashed the ball home after 15 minutes when his header from a corner rebounded favourably off a defender.
Striker Dimitris Salpigidis should have levelled for PAOK before halftime but the Greece striker headed against the bar after being picked out by Miroslav Stoch’s precise cross.
Panathinaikos began the second half with the same attacking intensity as in the first and were 3-0 up within nine minutes of the restart, Berg racing clear to score with a clinical finish from an acute angle and Karelis heading home from Nano’s corner.
That took the wind out of PAOK, who were disorganised at the back and failed to recover. Vukic’s 70th minute penalty after Lino was fouled by Mehdi Abeid was scant consolation.
The prolific Berg added more gloss to the scoreline with his third goal two minutes from time.
“Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a performance,” he said. “We were the best team and deserved our victory. The crowd was unbelievable and we are just so pleased to give them something to celebrate.”
Security was a top priority with over 4,000 police officers on duty, while mass gatherings in central Athens were banned from early in the morning as part of beefed-up safety measures following unsavoury scenes during PAOK’s semi-final win over Olympiakos Piraeus on April 16.
In that match the start was delayed by over an hour due to thousands of flares being set off and a bucket of fish being dumped on to the visitors’ dugout.
There were no crowd disturbances during Saturday’s final, although police reported over 30 arrests for isolated incidents outside the stadium, including damage caused to a police car.
Editing by Josh Reich