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AEK Athens were relegated for the first time in the club's 89-year history.

AEK Athens were relegated for the first time in the club's 89-year history on Sunday after conceding a late goal to lose their final Greek Super League match 1-0 against Atromitos Athinon.

AEK were already facing the drop after being handed a three-point deduction that had yet to be applied to the standings for crowd violence in their match against fellow strugglers Panthrakikos last weekend.

They needed a win to give themselves a slim chance of survival ahead of next week's appeal hearing but were hit with a sucker punch late on as Kostas Giannoulis' raced clear and finished clinically in the third minute of added time.

Several AEK players broke down in tears at the final whistle as they realised they would be joining bottom club Kerkyra in next season's Football League, Greece's second tier.

"There are no words to describe my feelings," a dejected AEK coach Traianos Dellas told reporters.

"The guys really gave it a go, and much like AEK, they do not deserve a fate like this. I'm so sorry as well, I tried my best to raise morale but I didn't manage to succeed. I feel deep sorrow for what has happened, but we have to try to think about the next day and the future of the club." Dellas, a former player with AEK and Euro 2004 winner with Greece, was only brought in 11 days ago for the final two matches, his appointment representing a last throw of the dice for a club desperate to avoid the drop.

The defeat left them two points adrift of safety, or five if the three-point penalty is upheld, ending any hopes they had of remaining in the top flight.

The Super League's disciplinary committee dished out the punishment last Friday after AEK's match against Panthrakikos at the Olympic Stadium was abandoned due to a a pitch invasion by home fans.

The league said the match would be recorded as a 3-0 loss for AEK, applied a three-point deduction from this season's tally and two from the next campaign, and slapped the club with fines totaling 4,000 euros.

The club submitted an appeal against the decision, which it called a "pre-meditated crime by a corrupt system" in a strongly worded statement, which is set to be heard next week.

PLAYOFF PLACES At the other end of the table, Panathinaikos failed to finish in the Champions League playoff places despite running out 3-2 winners at the Olympic Stadium against Veria thanks to two goals from Spanish midfielder Victor Vitolo and a Habib Sow effort.

Champions Olympiakos Piraeus also tasted victory in their final match, seeing off Panionios 2-1.

Kostas Mitroglou put them ahead after 12 minutes, but the visitors responded strongly and equalised eight minutes later through Andreas Samaris.

The hosts' quality showed in the second half, however, and Greece defender Avrm Papadopoulos headed home what proved to be the winner in the 72nd minute to ensure the Reds ended the season on 77 points from 30 matches.

The end-of-season playoffs, which determine Greece's second Champions League spot and Europa League representatives, will be contested between PAOK Salonica, Asteras Tripolis, Atromitos and PAS Yiannina.

PAOK ended their regular campaign with a deserved 2-0 home win over Yiannina thanks to second-half goals from Giorgos Georgiadis and Kostas Katsouranis to finish as runners-up in the table.

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Publication:Financial Mirror (Cyprus)
Date:Apr 22, 2013
Words:571
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