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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Ugly scenes on a night to forget
Police and fans clash in Rome
The police have been criticised for their response

Clashes involving police and fans during the Champions League tie between Roma and Manchester United have horrified football fans.

The BBC's Christian Fraser was at the match.

A visit to Rome to see your team play in the Olympic stadium is supposed to be a memorable experience.

Yet for the travelling Manchester United supporters this was a night to forget.

It turned ugly shortly after the opening goal as both sets of supporters surged towards the dividing Perspex fence. The police response was brutal.

'Forced to intervene'

They beat supporters as they tried to escape - several were trapped in their seats. At least one was hit repeatedly as he lay prostrate on the ground.

And some fans said they were struck by officers as they pleaded for medical help.

But today at a police press conference, the chief of policing in Rome, Achille Serra, said he supported the police actions.

We were ambushed. There was no warning
Steven Fitzsimons
Manchester United fan

"To criticise the police is a sport," he said "The British always like to do it.

"The police were forced to intervene between two sets of violent fans and once you are in the middle of that you have to go in strong."

Mr Serra said he had not seen any cases of police brutality but if evidence was produced he would investigate immediately.

Both the club and the British government have responded to the television pictures.

In a statement Manchester United said: "There were clearly some very disturbing scenes in the stadium last night. Until we have had a chance to discuss the situation with the British Embassy in Rome and the Italian authorities and to understand the cause, it would be inappropriate to comment."

The Home Office minister, Vernon Coaker, said: "The scenes that we saw on our television screens last night were extremely concerning.

"And I would be interested to see the report that comes - not only from Italian police but also from our own police officers who were out there, from the Embassy, from the fans themselves and indeed from the club to see what their view of things is.

"We need some explanation of what actually took place and the police response to it."

'Lucky man'

Some Manchester United fans were attacked before they even reached the stadium.

Steven Fitzsimons, 51, was stabbed in the thigh. He and his five friends had been dropped off at the wrong end of the ground by their taxi driver. Suddenly they were surrounded by six masked Roma fans, all of them carrying knives.

"We were ambushed," said Steven. "There was no warning.

"I was punched in the back of the head and fell to the ground.

"I have a deep stab wound in the top of my leg near my buttock. So far I have had two minor operations.

"The doctor has said I am a very lucky man. If had been two centimetres to the left it would have hit an artery and I would have been dead on arrival - so I am pretty happy to be here."

Two of Steven's friends were also stabbed in the backside. One of them is still receiving treatment.

In all 13 British fans were taken to hospital.

Uefa has launched an official investigation.

But as far as the violence in the stadium is concerned, the Italian police are adamant that their response was justified. From their end the matter is closed.

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