Thursday, 5 April 2007

English press slams Rome police

The English press has launched a furious attack against the Italian police, accusing them of battering the Manchester United fans in Rome.

Over 4,000 supporters followed the Reds to Italy for the Champions League quarter-final at the Stadio Olimpico, but the match was marred by crowd trouble inside and outside the arena.

Both sets of fans threw missiles across the barriers, but newspapers in England titled on Thursday that little was done to prevent the missiles being thrown by the Roma supporters while the Man Utd fans were beaten severely.

"United fans battered by Italian cops," headlines The Sun, stating that the riot police showed no mercy as they attacked Manchester United fans using truncheons and tear gas.

"One officer was seen smashing his baton down on one supporter 10 times and another cop also hit the sprawling fan twice," continued the tabloid.

At least 18 English fans were taken to hospital, as confirmed by the Italian police, with two kept in overnight and some suffering knife wounds.

The Times reported that the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association is compiling a dossier to submit to UEFA and has asked supporters to send statements and pictures.

"The Italian police were stationed on our side of the fence, in attack formation against United fans, in a way that only made sense if they were trying to protect the Roma fans from us," said the group.

Meanwhile Italy's sporting press were unanimous in praising Roma's 2-1 win.

"Roma has made another historic step forward, has another victory that no-one will forget, and has laid down the foundations to add a few more," Corriere dello Sport said of Wednesday's match at the Stadio Olimpico.

"Could Roma have made more of their one-man advantage, winning by a bigger margin, or being more precise and less rushed with the ball?" added Corriere. "Probably. But it shouldn't be forgotten that (Luciano) Spalletti's team dominated almost uninterruptedly a team that is held to be among the best, if not the best, in Europe."

La Gazzetta dello Sport described Roma's performance as "beautiful, at times magic", though it admitted the return leg at Old Trafford next Tuesday would be tough.

It drew hope, however, not just for Roma but also for AC Milan by drawing a parallel between this season's Champions League and last year's World Cup.

"After the early elimination of the favourites, the way has been opened for teams that are solid in defence, lacking in style, but dangerous on the break.

"It's the spirit that is pushing Roma on and, in a certain way, is also keeping Milan on track."

The only cool note was struck by Turin-based Tuttosport, which rued Roma's "lack of killer instinct" and said the result was "a very narrow victory compared to what it could, and maybe should, have been". "It will be like playing roulette," said the paper, as it looked forward to the return leg.

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