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Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 17:09 UK

AEK Athens face Dundee United without Greek fans


AEK chaos a Greek tragedy for Utd fans

Dundee United's Europa League second-leg qualifier against AEK Athens in Greece will now be played with only the Scottish club's fans present.

The match venue has been switched twice and will now go ahead at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, the home of AEK's Athens rivals, Olympiakos.

AEK supporters will be excluded because of fears of clashes between their fans and those of Olympiakos.

The original venue, Olympic Stadium, had been deemed unplayable on Monday.

It was switched on Tuesday to Nea Smyrni Stadium, the 11,700-capacity Athens home of Greek Superleague rivals Panionios.

Athens venue switch not ideal - Thompson

But Panionios fans angry at the switch accessed the Nea Smyrni Stadium that evening and, using spades and other gardening tools, dug up the pitch and damaged the goalposts.

With neighbours Panathinaikos' ground having already been ruled out because of the condition of their pitch, AEK turned to Olympiakos.

However, the 33,300 capacity stadium in the Piraeus district of Athens will house just United fans, with about 600 having made the trip from Scotland hoping to see their team overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit.

Karaiskakis Stadium
Karaiskakis Stadium is the home of Olympiakos of Piraeus

United chairman Stephen Thompson was furious that Peter Houston's squad had left Scotland without knowing the venue for the match and insisted his club would make an official complaint.

AEK had faced being thrown out of the tournament before meeting a Uefa deadline to find a venue by Tuesday afternoon.

There was a recent precedent for a team being thrown out of European competition in such circumstances had AEK not found a suitable alternative.

In July, Andorran champions Santa Coloma had the home leg of their Champions League qualifier against Birkirkara postponed due to a pitch that was unplayable.

Uefa awarded the the game to the Maltese side by a 3-0 scoreline and Santa Coloma were fined 10,000 euros and suspended for two years.

Thompson is holding fire on the full strength of feeling at Uefa's handling of the affair but called in the Scottish Football Association for assistance.

He had feared for the safety of United's travelling fans after it was suggested that a venue outside Athens might be chosen.

Dundee Utd 'must be compact' in Athens

"I am extremely unhappy," he said. "We are concerned about our fans, but Uefa have given us an assurance that we will be safe."

AEK's coach, Dusan Bajevic, was recently attacked by a group of his club's own supporters following a pre-season friendly and there is the further complication over the response of Olympiakos fans.

United fans will be transported to and from the ground by coach amid fears over the reaction of AEK Athens supporters to the news they will be locked out.

The choice of Olympiakos's ground brought to an end three days of confusion.

"Initially, it was mooted to sources that the tie would be moved to Volos - some 300 km away," said the Scottish Premier League club's website.

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see also
Houston's concern is AEK quality
25 Aug 10 |  Dundee Utd
AEK 1-1 Dundee Utd (agg 2-1)
26 Aug 10 |  Europe
United reject new Boro Conway bid
31 Aug 10 |  Dundee Utd
Houston warns Dundee Utd players
23 Aug 10 |  Dundee Utd
Dundee Utd 0-4 Inverness CT
22 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
AEK taught us a lesson - Houston
19 Aug 10 |  Dundee Utd
Dundee Utd 0-1 AEK Athens
19 Aug 10 |  Europe

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