Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Italian police clash with Manchester United fans

RUNNING BATTLES Italian newspapers blamed illegal beer sales for the violence that erupted after Roma's first goal against Manchester United on Wednesday

AFP , ROME

Italian police clash with Manchester United fans during the Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match between AS Roma and Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday. At least 18 fans were injured in the clashes, officials said.

PHOTO: AP

Police baton-charged Manchester United fans during their Champions League quarter-final here and at least 18 British fans were injured in clashes, one with a serious stab wound in the neck.

"Too much beer" despite a ban on sales of alcohol was probably partly to blame for the clashes, the sports daily Gazzetto dello Sport said yesterday, adding that at least 22 people were hurt including 19 United fans. One English fan underwent immediate surgery, it said.

United and AS Roma fans were involved in running battles outside the Rome Olympic Stadium before the game late Wednesday and police charged United fans after new disturbances erupted following Roma's first goal in their 2-1 victory.

Rome police chief Achille Serra had ordered that no alcohol be sold to fans in the Italian capital from midday on Wednesday until 3am yesterday.

"Despite the order ... beer and strong drinks could be bought without a problem," the Rome daily Il Messaggero wrote. "Three bar trucks were freely handing out drinks even a few meters from the stadium," it said.

One British fan was in serious condition after being stabbed in the back of the neck, the ANSA news agency reported.

Television images showed one English supporter with blood pouring from a head wound as he was carried away by other fans.

ANSA said 18 fans were taken to Rome's San Giacomo hospital.

Manchester United had warned its supporters to be wary of certain parts of Rome because of the risk of trouble from Roma followers.

The Gazzetta dello Sport commented that the British were right to fear violence ahead of the tie.

"Despite the indignation of the mayor of Rome and the fans, the fears of the English turned out to be well-founded," the paper said.

Media reports said there were fights between fans as they made their way to the key match and more troubles erupted inside.

ANSA said around 300 British fans were involved in street fights. Riot police brought the two sides under control.

Trouble inside the stadium blew up after Rodrigo Taddei's goal put Roma ahead. Roma supporters ran towards the fencing separating them from United counterparts and pelted them with plastic drink bottles, many of them full.

United fans launched similar tactics and police baton-charged the United supporters.

The troubles came only a day after the Italian government passed new laws in a bid to stamp out mounting football hooliganism in recent months.

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