ATHENS: The Greek league may be halted after crowd trouble in Athens on Sunday at the always-tense derby between Panathinaikos and old rivals Olympiakos Pireus.

Panathinaikos face  having three points deducted, a fine of up to €180,000 and an order to play several games in an empty stadium after the was abandoned  because of rioting.

Police have announced that, despite the deployment of more than 2,000 security personnel, 77 fans were arrested and nine officers were injured, two seriously.

Spokesman Athanassios Kokalakis said: “We dedicated several thousand personnel to policing the game and we faced escalting attacks from two hours before the game.”

Olympiakos, four points ahead of Panathinaikos before the game, were leading 1-0 from Djamel Abdoun’s 51st-minute goal. No Olympiakos fans attended the game at Olympic Stadium in accordance with a league policy not to allow visiting fans precisely because of fears of violence.

Sports Minister Panos Bitsaxis said on television that the state had taken «the best possible security measures» and accused football clubs of doing nothing to curb the fanatical supporters and of opposing the state’s attempts to impose tougher sanctions.

Clashes between police and fans started before the game, when hundreds of youths without tickets tried to enter the stadium. The conflict continued throughout, forcing the second half to start 35 minutes late. It was abandoned in the 82nd minute of the game.

A group of about 200 hooded individuals were seated in a VIP section, next to the players’ tunnel. Some of them carried clubs and iron bars. They were confronted by a line of riot police on the other side of a moat, whom they attacked at halftime.

At one stage, about 30 of the hooded hooligans isolated two policemen and attacked them with clubs and bars. The beating went on for about five minutes before another detachment of riot police came to their colleagues’ rescue.

In the second half, Panathinaikos fans set fire to seats in the upper and lower decks. Referee Tassos Kakos abandoned the game when firebombs were added to the mix of projectiles thrown at police and photographers. The firebombs — which were also thrown at police outside the stadium — were water bottles filled with gasoline, liquid ammonia and small sticks of dynamite.

“The noise was so much that the players could not concentrate,» Olympiakos coach Ernesto Valverde said.

The stadium’s electronic scoreboard caught fire and was damaged. Fire trucks entered the stadium’s track to put out the fires but were attacked by fans, so trucks with water cannons were used instead. The fires were eventually put out.

The Greek league’s general manager Michalis Anagnostou said: “We had been cooperating with the police for almost a month in preparation for the game. The outcome was not what we wishedr.”

If the result stands then Olympiakos will be virtually certain of winning the league title for a record-extending 39th time.

** German football and police authorities have launched an inquiry into trouble at last weekend’s second division game in Frankfurt when hooligan followers of visiting Dresden provoked crowd trouble after entering the stadium masquerading as Eintracht fans.

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