Monday 11 December 2017

Violence in Lyon completes ugly week for beautiful game

Police officers take to the pitch as Lyon fans invade the pitch after clashes with the visiting Besiktas supporters before last night’s game. Photo: REUTERS
Police officers take to the pitch as Lyon fans invade the pitch after clashes with the visiting Besiktas supporters before last night’s game. Photo: REUTERS

James Ducker and Julian Bennetts

Lyon's quarter-final first leg against Besiktas was delayed by 46 minutes after shocking scenes of violence in the stands at the Parc OL.

There were ugly clashes in the French city before the match and they continued inside the ground, with projectiles and firecrackers raining down from the upper tiers, forcing supporters below onto the pitch.

The two teams had already begun to warm up but they returned to the dressing-room as pictures emerged of what appeared to be fighting among spectators in the stands.

With an image of supporters entering the field of play, Lyon posted a tweet reading: "Projectiles and firecrackers thrown from the tops of the stands have forced fans to take refuge on the pitch."

Lyon president Jean Michel Aulas went into the crowd in an effort to calm supporters ahead of a match that was already labelled 'high-risk', with 500 police - double the usual number - on duty.

After all members of the public had left the playing surface, Lyon tweeted that a revised start time would be announced "in several minutes", later saying a second warm-up was imminent.

Besiktas and Lyon fans clash in the stands. Photo: REUTERS
Besiktas and Lyon fans clash in the stands. Photo: REUTERS

When the players emerged for the second warm-up they clapped the crowd before the game finally kicked off at 8.51 Irish time.


Jeremy Morel sealed Lyon's last-gasp comeback to win 2-1 after Ryan Babel gave the visitors an early lead.

It was the third incident at a European game this week after the attack on the Borussia Dortmund team coach on Tuesday and clashes between Leicester supporters and police in Madrid on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

The attack on the Dortmund bus meant Manchester United were at the centre of a huge security operation last night as the Belgian police and authorities, already on a heightened state of alert following last year's terrorists attacks in Brussels when 32 people were killed, took no chances ahead of kick-off against Anderlecht.

Dortmund were forced to delay their Champions League quarter-final, first leg against Monaco by 24 hours after three explosive devices tore into their team bus on Tuesday night.

Defender Marc Bartra had to undergo surgery on his arm to repair a fracture and remove shrapnel after he was injured by shards of glass in the terrorist attack.

The incident led to a range of additional security measures in the lead up to and aftermath of the first leg of United's Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht, with a ring of steel around the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

Just under four hours before kick-off, two camouflaged army personnel carriers pulled up transporting troops to the ground, with armed checkpoints set up at each end of the main street bordering the stadium.

Although this has been common practice since the Brussels attacks, there were more police, army and security than normal for Anderlecht's most high-profile match of the season.

The heavy police presence could be traced all the way back to the city, with dozens of armed officers in riot gear, some with sniffer dogs, patrolling entrances to tram stations and guards littered on the train platforms.

At one end of the street where United fans entered the stadium, steel gates manned by armed police blocked the way with more officers inside the perimeter. Police were under instructions from the mayor to address any supporters trying to enter the stadium without tickets.

All bags were banned inside the ground unless they had special blue tags. Media and photographers were subjected to body searches and their laptops and equipment checked.

Despite the enforced measures, there was still a carnival atmosphere around the ground, with fans drinking in the early evening sunshine at bars along Avenue Theo Verbeecklaan.

United had left their base, the Hotel on Boulevard de Waterloo, three hours before kick-off with armed police waiting for them as the boarded the team bus.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who was Dortmund's coach for seven years until 2015, said he could see "the shock in the eyes" of his former players following the terrorist attack.


Klopp said: "Probably everyone can imagine it was a difficult moment for me.

"In the interviews after the game I could see the faces of my former players and I saw shock in their eyes and that was really difficult to play the game, so I forgot the match immediately."

"I can 100pc see both sides (why it went ahead).

"It's really, really difficult to find a date in this really tight schedule but I think everyone would have understood if they said they did not want to play it.

"I'm pretty sure the people who make the decision afterwards, if they had been in the bus they would not have played the game." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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