AEK Athens have been hit with a one-season ban from European competition after fan violence in a Champions League game against Ajax, but UEFA has suspended the punishment for two years.

Home fans were pictured throwing flares and other missiles into the away section of the Olympic Stadium ahead of November's group game between the sides, which Ajax won 2-0.

Some images showed flames erupting on the terrace and riot police were also seen striking Ajax fans, some of whom were left with bloodied faces.

AEK were charged by UEFA following the game and the organisation's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body announced the Greek club's punishment on Friday.

A statement said: "The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body has decided: To exclude AEK Athens from participating in the next UEFA club competition for which it will otherwise qualify. This sanction is suspended for a probationary period of two years.

"To order the club to play its next two UEFA competition matches as host club behind closed doors. To fine AEK Athens €80,000."

Ajax were also charged by UEFA after the game but proceedings against the Dutch club have now been closed.

AEK are third in the Greek Super League after 21 rounds of games, sitting outside the Champions League qualification places.

"Our club apologised publicly and immediately, and recognised its part of responsibility about what happened," said a club statement in response to UEFA's punishment.

"The most important thing for all of us is to realise and think about that this decision does not mean the end of this incident, but the beginning of an extremely difficult road of complete compliance with the actual meaning of this decision, along with the need of taking drastic action in order to avoid finding ourselves at this position ever again, because in that case there will be no return!"

UEFA says a "technical issue" was behind the delays in implementing the VAR process during Wednesday's Champions League clash between Schalke and Manchester City.

Despite leading through Sergio Aguero's 18th-minute effort, City - who went on to win 3-2 - were behind at the break after Nabil Bentaleb scored a pair of spot-kicks.

The first of those was awarded by referee Carlos del Cerro Grande after a lengthy period of deliberation and confusion, with Nicolas Otamendi ultimately penalised for handball.

It took almost three minutes for that call to be made, and another two before Bentaleb sent Ederson the wrong way from 12 yards.

Five minutes later, Schalke had another penalty decision awarded following a VAR review, as Fernandinho bundled into Salif Sane at a free-kick.

UEFA released a statement on Thursday explaining that a problem with the pitchside monitor meant the officials had to use a backup process.

"When such a malfunction of the system occurs, the IFAB protocol allows for the VAR to describe to the referee what can be seen on the TV replay(s) but not tell him the decision that should be taken," read the statement. "The referee then makes a final decision based on his own perception and the information received orally from the VAR.

"In regards to the first decision, the inability to access the incident replays at the pitchside review area led to a delay in reaching the correct decision to award a penalty kick for a handball offence, while the VAR orally described the situation to the referee to allow him to make a final decision, and for the referee to then provide an explanation to the two team captains to clarify the circumstances regarding the pitchside review area and the decision-making process

"The second decision was also correctly made on the basis of the Laws of the Game (Law 11 – Offside) which stipulates: 'if a player in an offside position is moving towards the ball with the intention of playing the ball and is fouled before playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the foul is penalised as it has occurred before the offside offence'."

UEFA chief refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti commented: "I am pleased that even without the possibility for the referee to review the incidents with his own eyes, the excellent cooperation of the team of officials led to correct decisions being made.

"It must also be underlined that - and as is described in the VAR protocol - accuracy is always in principle more important than speed when reaching a decision.

"Clearly, last night’s technical issues had a big impact on the time taken to reach decisions, but we are fully aware that reducing the time factor is key to the success of VAR and we are doing our utmost to make reviews as quick and efficient as possible.

"However, what we ultimately want is correct decisions in such match-changing situations and this is what we got yesterday."

The Manchester City fan who sustained a "massive traumatic brain injury" following an incident inside Schalke's stadium is fighting for his life, police have said.

Polizei Gelsenkirchen issued a statement calling for witnesses in relation to an alleged assault that took place during Wednesday's Champions League match at the Veltins-Arena.

The injured fan was taken to hospital in a critical condition and members of City staff have remained in Gelsenkirchen to support the victim's family.

The man was said to have been knocked to the ground in a "violent clash" with two Schalke supporters at 10:50pm local time, during the closing stages of the Premier League side's 3-2 victory.

"In the scuffling, a 32-year-old Englishman was hit by a blow that caused him to fall to the ground," the statement read.

"In this fall, he suffered a massive traumatic brain injury.

"An emergency ambulance took him to the local emergency medical centre for treatment at a local hospital. There is currently acute danger to life.

"The police has set up a murder commission to investigate the incident and looks, in connection with this, for witnesses who can provide information on the facts and/or the perpetrators."

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: "We are aware of an assault that occurred following the Schalke v MCFC fixture.

"We are working alongside the football clubs and German authorities to support their investigation and the man's family.

"We would urge anyone with information to contact us on 101 or via live chat so we can share intelligence with our colleagues in Germany."

Tottenham's development into an established top-four force is an "amazing" feat which few other clubs could achieve, according to former Spurs striker Freddie Kanoute.

Mauricio Pochettino's men have defied the constraints of two inactive transfer windows to compile another eye-catching set of results domestically and in Europe.

They brushed aside Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and are on course to secure a fourth straight top-three finish in the Premier League, having never done so prior to Pochettino's appointment as manager in 2014.

Ex-Mali international Kanoute, scorer 15 top-flight goals across two full seasons for Spurs, believes the club deserve credit despite their inability to convert potential into silverware.

"This is, obviously right now, for me one of the most exciting and brilliant teams in England," Kanoute told Omnisport.

"Of course they have been criticised a lot because they didn't transfer [in] new players and so on, but the level of performance with the same players for a few years now is just amazing.

"And there are very few other clubs that are capable of doing the same thing in the last few years.

"So yes, I've really enjoyed their way to play and their performances in the last few years. And I think they are still growing."

Pochettino's impressive efforts in transforming Tottenham's fortunes have reportedly led to interest in his services from Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Kanoute, who enjoyed success with LaLiga side Sevilla while Pochettino was at Espanyol, praised the Argentine's understated nature.

"I think he's a very good manager," the 41-year-old said. "I follow a little bit of the press and what people say about him in England, and everybody likes this coach because he's very quiet and doesn't make a lot of noise, but he's working very seriously.

"His team has been very consistent in the last few years and I think everybody sees he's got a plan and a methodology to work with.

"And yes, I know he's going to be a big prospect for many, many clubs in the coming months and years."

Cristiano Ronaldo's brag that he has won five Champions League titles compared to Atletico Madrid's zero has received a frosty response from the club's president Enrique Cerezo.

Atletico's 2-0 defeat of Ronaldo's Juventus in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie led the former Real Madrid superstar to show off about his successes in the competition.

Walking through the mixed zone after goals from Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez earned Atletico a 2-0 win at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, Ronaldo held up his hand.

"I won five Champions Leagues and these guys zero," he told reporters. 

Ronaldo helped to down Atletico in the 2014 and 2016 finals, which were each level after 90 minutes, Los Blancos going on to win those titles in extra time and on penalties respectively.

Cerezo, though, does not think Madrid's victories over Atletico in those two Champions League finals should count towards Ronaldo's personal tally.

"For me, Cristiano doesn't have five Champions Leagues," the Atletico president told Italian radio station Radio CRC.

"He has three and for one very simple reason: Both against Atletico Madrid he didn't win."

Cerezo, who reportedly left his seat during Wednesday's win after a VAR decision went against Atletico, was unwilling to share why he believes that to be the case.

"Who won them? That we'll talk about in the next interview," he added.

Cerezo also commented on the celebration of Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who grabbed his crotch and later apologised for the gesture, claiming he did it "to show our fans that we have cojones".

"It was a moment of joy," Cerezo said. "I understand the reaction of Cholo [Simeone] – who, by the way, was not being offensive towards Juventus. He was referring to our fans."

Manchester City have confirmed a supporter is in a critical condition in hospital after an alleged assault following their Champions League match away to Schalke.

Members of club staff have not travelled back to Manchester after Wednesday's last-16 first leg in order to support the fan's family.

City asked for anyone who has information about the incident to get in touch with police.

"Manchester City are aware of an alleged assault after the match at the Veltins-Arena in Germany last night," said a club statement.

"The club are working with Greater Manchester Police and German Police to ascertain more information.

"Club staff have remained in Germany to support the family of an injured City fan who is currently in a critical condition in hospital."

Pep Guardiola's team won the match 3-2 thanks to strikes from Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling - the latter two goals coming after Nicolas Otamendi received a second-half red card.

Niko Kovac wants Bayern Munich to repeat their defensive performance from the Liverpool game when they return to Bundesliga action against Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

Bayern claimed a goalless draw at Anfield on Tuesday, keeping the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at bay in a tense Champions League last-16 first leg.

But the Bundesliga champions have been less impressive at the back against domestic opponents - failing to close out a clean sheet in Germany since the turn of the year, even as they have closed the gap to leaders Borussia Dortmund to three points.

Having seen what Bayern can do against Liverpool's formidable frontline, Kovac sees no excuse for them not to recreate that display at home to Hertha.

"The matches in Europe have a very different meaning, but we have to go again in the Bundesliga," he told a pre-match news conference.

"We can take a lot of positive things from the game against Liverpool two days ago and we can catch up [with the top of the table] with a win, then Dortmund must respond the next day."

Of the need for another disciplined defensive performance, Kovac added: "It's not all about setting up with four, five or six in defence. Against Liverpool, the whole team worked well defensively.

"I expect consistency and discipline at the back. We have to do in the Bundesliga just as we did against Salah and Firmino. If we can do that, it will be very difficult to score against us. Whether we like it or not, that's what we have to do."

The Bayern coach is also keen to ensure complacency does not set in against Hertha after facing down esteemed Premier League opposition.

"We have to learn from the past," Kovac said. "We lost to Hertha [in September] because we made mistakes. Then Borussia Monchengladbach is in two weeks [on March 2].

"Every game is difficult, everyone always gives 100 per cent against us. We always have to give everything, too. We need to be confident but do not look back, look at what's coming. We want to be successful until the international break.

"We're still in the running in all three competitions and we want to keep it that way. Only wins count and that's what I'm expecting against Hertha."

Kovac confirmed that Mats Hummels missed training on Thursday with a cold, while Leon Goretzka continues to recover from the injury that kept him out of the Liverpool match.

Ajax have had their Eredisive match against PEC Zwolle, which was set to be played three days ahead of a Champions League trip to Real Madrid, postponed by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB).

The Amsterdam giants lost 2-1 at home in the first leg of the last-16 tie and are due to go to the Santiago Bernabeu for the return meeting with the Champions League holders on March 5.

Ajax were scheduled for Eredivisie action at home to PEC the weekend before, but that match will now be played on March 13 following a KNVB announcement.

"In the interest of Dutch football, we have agreed with all clubs prior to this season to take into account as much as possible the European obligations of the Dutch clubs," said manager of competition affairs Jan Bluyssen. 

"Ajax are still the only club this season that can win the points for the UEFA coefficient list on behalf of Dutch football, so we will take that into account as agreed.

"We realise that the start time of 18:30 on a weekday is unfavourable for the supporters of PEC Zwolle, but because it is a Champions League evening, it cannot be otherwise."

However, PEC chairman Adriaan Visser said his club - who are in danger of being relegated from the Eredivisie - refuse to accept the change in the fixture date.

"This is just a distortion of competition and totally unacceptable to us," Visser told De Stentor. "The KNVB must ensure an orderly course of our competition. As a result, we suddenly have three games in a week, unlike other league rivals.

"And then we are not even talking about how our supporters are disadvantaged by moving the game to an early time on a weekday. This is a worthless decision.

"Jan Bluyssen contacted us and asked if we would see it as an option to move our meeting with Ajax with a good result from Ajax if they had a good result. Ajax lost. That is not good result. And anyway, even with a good result we did not agree. I immediately said that.

"Apparently, the KNVB, after permission from UEFA and the municipality of Amsterdam, has decided to publish the press release immediately.

"There is also no alternative with us, such as moving Ajax's cup game with Feyenoord [on February 27] or our game against Excelsior [on March 17]. This is ridiculous and we will not let this happen."

Eredisive leaders PSV, who are four points clear of Ajax in the title race after 22 matches, are also unimpressed with the KNVB's decision.

"The rules are suddenly changed during the competition. As a result, the competition is influenced in various ways," PSV director Toon Gerbrands told Eindhovens Dagblad.

"We were treated like small children when we asked for clarification. This is decided by Jan Bluyssen, the competition manager. Consultation was no longer possible.

"This is a bad thing for both the teams at the bottom of the competition and at the top."

Georginio Wijnaldum expects Premier League title hopefuls Liverpool to have a difficult game against Manchester United as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are enjoying "a new flow".

United are unbeaten in the Premier League since Solskjaer took temporary charge as the replacement for Jose Mourinho in December, winning eight games and drawing the other.

That run has seen United climb into the top four as they seek Champions League qualification, while victory at Old Trafford on Sunday could also help them derail Liverpool's title bid.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are enduring a stickier spell, having won only three of their past eight games in all competitions amid a defensive injury crisis.

Wijnaldum is under no illusions about the size of the challenge facing Jurgen Klopp's side.

"I think it is going to be a real big change," Wijnaldum told reporters, referring to Liverpool's 3-1 defeat of United at Anfield in December, which proved to be Mourinho's final match in charge.

"Since the new manager came in there is a new flow, they played good games and have won a lot and that is building confidence in the team.

"It's also a home game for them so they will have a lot of confidence as they don't have the problems they had before. It is going to be a difficult game but I'm looking forward to it."

Liverpool were held to a goalless draw by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on Tuesday, a result the Netherlands international feels leaves the tie in the balance.

"A bad result for them? Why? I think it is a good result for both," Wijnaldum said. "The only thing is if we go there and score a goal they have to score two. One of the advantages is that they will play at home.

"I think a lot of teams when they come to Anfield and they play a draw they think it is a good result. I don't think it is a bad result for them. But neither is it for us.

"They will also analyse us and know where we are strong. I don't think they will play really open because they know we are good on the counter-attack, but they also know we score goals with good football and create chances.

"It's difficult to say how the game is going to go but it is going to be a tough one that's for sure."

Koke said the VAR will give Alvaro Morata a goal "one day" after the Atletico Madrid forward had his header ruled out by the video assistant referee in the Champions League victory over Juventus.

Morata thought he had opened his Atletico account in Wednesday's 2-0 last 16 first-leg triumph at home to Juventus in Madrid, however, the VAR intervened in the second half.

The 26-year-old, who was denied by the VAR in the LaLiga derby loss to Real Madrid on February 9, headed past Wojciech Szczesny and celebrated passionately but a review found he had pushed Giorgio Chiellini.

Morata is yet to score since arriving from Premier League side Chelsea on an 18-month loan deal last month and asked about the Spaniard post-match, Atletico midfielder Koke told reporters: "In the end, VAR will one day give Morata a goal.

"He has scored two goals that have been cancelled. If they cancel it, sometimes it is a goal and sometimes it is not. You have to respect the decisions. We respect the referees and we continue with the dynamic of trying to win games and score more goals in case they are cancelled."

Defensive duo Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin were the unlikely goalscorers for Atletico at Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico were unfortunate not to end the match with a greater advantage after Diego Costa spurned a golden opportunity early in the second half and Antoine Griezmann saw his shot pushed onto the crossbar by Szczesny.

"Very happy for the victory but there isn't anything done," Koke said. "We know about Juventus' quality, their potential... they're one of the best teams in the world. We are happy with the result but nothing is decided yet. It is gonna be a great battle in Turin, like a war. We'll need a perfect game to get through.

"Juventus are one of the best in the world, and you should never presume an Italian team dead, and neither Juventus. We are going to try to compete, to make a perfect game, as we did today, to be able to get through"

It proved to be a frustrating evening for former Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who was seen gesturing during and after the match.

Ronaldo held up his hands to indicate the five Champions League titles he has won – four with Madrid and one with Manchester United – on the pitch and when he walked through the mixed zone.

"On the field I did not see anything," Koke added. "Maybe he was greeting someone. If you have five Champions League titles, then congratulate him. We cannot say anything else either."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri defended Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward's subdued display in a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Late goals from Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin gave Atletico a deserved win in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Ronaldo had just one shot on target – of Juve's three – and Godin's goal deflected in off him in the 83rd minute.

But Allegri backed the 34-year-old's performance and said the clash would be beneficial heading into the second leg in Turin on March 12.

"Ronaldo played a good game," he told a news conference.

"He is confident with these kinds of matches. He was not bad at all.

"We missed all the second half as a team. And this match will be useful looking forward to the second leg."

Massimiliano Allegri insisted his side are "not dead yet" following a 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

Juve were downed by two late strikes from Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin and had earlier been spared by a VAR decision that denied Alvaro Morata a goal against his former club.

With Juve facing an uphill struggle to reach the quarter-finals ahead of the second leg in Turin next month, Allegri claimed his side had been forced to play badly by their hosts.

"The second half was ugly, as we made the mistake of going after them," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Atleti are very good at letting a game go by without a shot on goal.

"We had already risked ourselves on a breakaway and lost a ball, but the fact is that in the second half we did not have a shot on goal. Atleti came out much more aggressively on set plays and caught us by surprise.

"Now we have the chance to turn this around. We must have faith, we'll have some players back and there's no point crying over spilt milk.

"We knew it was going to be tough, that Atletico Madrid force you to play badly, with a slow tempo. We moved the ball quicker in the first half, but not in the second.

"We got the approach wrong in the second half. It's that simple.

"These things can happen, there will be great disappointment after this, but we can turn it around. It won't be easy, we need a great second leg, but it can be done and we must have faith.

"We're not dead yet, we weren't dead after losing 3-0 at home to Real Madrid [in the group stage], let alone now we've got the second leg at home.

"It's important to maintain the focus, organisation and keep our heads, because everything can be overturned.”

The second leg is scheduled to be played on March 12.

Cristiano Ronaldo responded to Juventus' loss against Atletico Madrid by reminding everyone he had won the Champions League five times, while the Spaniards are yet to lift the trophy.

The former Real Madrid forward experienced an unhappy return to the Spanish capital as Diego Simeone's Atletico claimed a 2-0 first-leg lead in their round-of-16 tie on Wednesday.

At one point during the game, Ronaldo responded to the predictable heckles he received at the Wanda Metropolitano by holding up his hand to indicate the number of Champions League titles he had won – four with Madrid and one with Manchester United.

And Ronaldo reiterated that figure when he breezed through the post-match mixed zone after the match.

"I won five Champions Leagues and these guys zero," he told reporters while holding up his hand.

Diego Simeone said he was trying to show Atletico Madrid's fans that his side had "cojones" when he celebrated a goal in the 2-0 Champions League victory over Juventus by clutching his own crotch.

The Atleti coach enthusiastically responded to Jose Gimenez's 78th-minute opener, after Alvaro Morata had seen a goal ruled out by VAR.

Diego Godin added a second for the LaLiga club at the Wanda Metropolitano to leave Juve with an uphill struggle to make it into the quarter-finals.

Simeone pointed out that he had celebrated in a similar fashion during his playing days but apologised to anyone who may have been offended.

"I did it as a player in Lazio-Bologna and I did it again to show our fans that we have cojones," he told Sky Sport Italia. "It wasn't aimed at the other team, I was turning towards our own supporters.

"It's not a nice gesture, I'll admit, but I felt the need to do it. It was such a tough game, we fought so hard and Diego Costa worked really hard when he wasn't 100 per cent fit. I had to show what I was feeling.

"I can only apologise if anyone was offended, but I did it from the heart."

Atletico Madrid finished second to Borussia Dortmund in their group, losing 4-0 in Germany before a 2-0 victory on home soil.

"We had put in a great performance against Borussia Dortmund," added Simeone. "We got important players back like Koke and Costa, we were able to play an intelligent game against a huge team with very strong players.

"We had to make the most of every situation we could get. It's a very good result.

"We know that we are facing a great team, a great club and great champions in Turin. We fully expect to suffer in the second leg."

The second leg is scheduled to be played on March 12.

Pep Guardiola declared himself "a big fan of VAR" despite the review system coming under the spotlight again in Manchester City's 3-2 Champions League win over Schalke.

Late goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling earned City a first-leg advantage in their last-16 tie, with Schalke – who had gone behind to Sergio Aguero's opener – having led 2-1 at half-time in Germany thanks to a pair of Nabil Bentaleb penalties.

The first of those was awarded for a handball against Nicolas Otamendi after referee Carlos del Cerro Grande had initially given a corner when Daniel Caligiuri's shot crashed into the defender's arm on Wednesday.

Due to a faulty pitch-side monitor, the official was unable to review the incident again and it took almost three minutes of confusion and deliberation for the penalty to be awarded, and a further two minutes passed before Bentaleb dispatched the spot-kick.

Schalke won another penalty when Fernandinho fouled Salif Sane and Otamendi, booked for his earlier handball, was later dismissed for a second caution, yet Guardiola insisted critics of VAR needed to be realistic.

Speaking about the system, being used in the Champions League knockout phases for the first time this season, Guardiola said at a news conference: "It's a penalty [for handball against Otamendi], I'm a big fan of VAR.

"It's a penalty. The second one is a penalty too, and offside, too. Maybe it's offside [against Salif Sane] but it's a penalty. The red card is a red card.

"It will improve. When one new system starts, it's like a manager - you arrive at a club and the people expect in a few months you win every game 6-0.

"VAR appears here, it needs time, it will improve. The referee told us the machine, the screen, is broken, okay, next time it will be better.

"I support this initiative because in the end we try to be fair in football.

"The decisions, sometimes the referees are not able to realise and they must be helped and VAR has the intention to help. So that is what it is."

Schalke boss Domenico Tedesco accepted his side benefited from "luck" but rued City's two late goals, which have left his side with a mountain to climb in the return leg at the Etihad Stadium in three weeks' time.

"We're obviously very disappointed by the result," he said.

"We deserved more. For one of the few times this season we had a bit of luck on our side. We knew we'd be pushed deep, but we were sloppy too often on the counter and conceding the goals we did late on was heartbreaking."

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