By Graham Wood
ATHENS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Olympiakos Piraeus have appealed against the partial closure of their ground for February's Champions League tie with Manchester United arguing that UEFA's sanctions were harsh as there was no racist behaviour by the fans.
European soccer's governing body said on Tuesday that the sanctions were imposed for "the racist conduct of supporters, insufficient organisation, the setting-off of fireworks and the use of a laser" in the Group C match with Anderlecht on Dec. 10.
UEFA has ordered the Greek champions to close the north stand lower tier at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, where their Gate 7 ultras gather, for the last 16, first-leg clash against United on Feb. 25.
UEFA also fined Olympiakos 30,000 euros ($41,200).
However, Olympiakos press spokesman Kostas Karapapas wrote on his Facebook account on Wednesday: "The punishment is because of one particular banner which as soon as it was seen was taken down and that is why it is harsh to say the least.
"There was no racist slogan or racist banner, and no racist chanting or songs were heard during the match with Anderlecht," he added.
Greek media reported that the banner depicted a man who had been decapitated.
"The punishment from UEFA is a first level decision and we have submitted an appeal to try to ensure that our stadium is full for the match against Manchester United," added Karapapas.
"It is a shame that some people don't want to see the Gate 7 area full for the match."
Olympiakos missed two penalties but still won 3-1 against Anderlecht, who finished with eight men, to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League as Group C runners-up above Benfica by virtue of a better head-to-head record.
($1 = 0.7283 euros) (Reporting by graham Wood, editing by Ken Ferris)