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Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 09:22 UK

Word on the 'Battle of the Bridge'

Patrice Evra (left) and a Chelsea groundsman are separated by a steward
Evra and a Chelsea groundsman are separated by a steward

The Football Association has requested CCTV footage of a scuffle involving Manchester United players and Chelsea staff at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Patrice Evra, Gary Neville, Ji-Sung Park and Paul Scholes were warming down after a 2-1 loss when they were asked to move by ground staff, sparking a row.

The incident has made headlines all over the papers, and here BBC Sport rounds up how it has been reported.

THE GUARDIAN

United player Evra was punched at least once, ending up with a bruise and a small cut above his eye.

"Patrice received a grave insult from a member of Chelsea's staff," United striker Carlos Tevez said.

"He demanded an explanation and from that moment these men just wanted to attack Patrice. Obviously it is normal that we tried to defend our team-mate but within a few seconds all of the United players were surrounded by stewards.

"I think that security cameras will show the provocation we received. I have never seen anything like this in my career."

"Basically this came about because of the provocation of somebody who works for Chelsea," said United player Gerard Pique.

"Patrice wanted an explanation but these men were very aggressive. All we were doing was finishing our work-out after the game. Even now I just do not understand the reaction of these people."

Chelsea said: "We are studying the TV footage and photographs and will then consider the appropriate course of action." It is understood they deny allegations of racism and feel their staff were provoked.

DAILY MIRROR

United insiders claimed the extraordinary brawl had been sparked by a racist taunt aimed at Evra. But Chelsea got wind of the racism allegations and, after a telephone summit between chief executives Peter Kenyon and his opposite number David Gill, United were forced to retract the claim.

Kenyon called Gill the moment he heard of the allegations and demanded his former club issue an immediate retraction.

DAILY TELEGRAPH

It has been alleged that Evra threw a punch at a groundsman. What happened next is not clear, but Chelsea believe their staff were provoked and say they will make the CCTV footage available to the FA.

United have distanced themselves from claims that the fracas was provoked by a racial attack on Evra.

And in a sign of ill feeling between the clubs, United refused yesterday to sign up to a joint statement outlining the events proposed by Chelsea.

THE SUN

Front pages: The man who brawled with Evra is Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell. Tattooed mowerman Bethell, 23, was caught on camera as he lunged at the France defender during a post-match brawl.

Evra, 26 appeared to duck an attempted blow and the steaming groundsman was finally restrained by colleagues and security staff.

Bethell said: "I've not lost my job. I'm back at work tomorrow morning. It was handbags really. It was not as bad as it appeared.

"I've been told not to say anything about what actually happened."

Back pages: Chelsea reacted furiously yesterday when it was suggested Evra had been racially abused. Kenyon instantly refuted the claim and even contacted senior United officials to see if they had evidence.

Chelsea also interviewed every member of their staff but found no proof of racist behaviour.

United agreed claims were unfounded - even Evra distanced himself from the allegation - but the club is now facing severe punishment for the shameful events.

Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves were also guilty of abusing Chelsea staff and match officials in the tunnel in the immediate aftermath of the match.

THE TIMES

Allegations that the post-match flare-up between groundstaff and the United substitutes was sparked by racist abuse directed at Evra were strenuously denied by Chelsea and also by official sources at Old Trafford.

Chelsea reacted with fury to the allegation, particularly as it was not made after the incident on Saturday, leading to talks between Kenyon and Gill.

Chelsea proposed releasing a joint statement denying such claims, but settled for a reassurance from United that, as far as they were aware, the allegation had no substance.

Evra's representatives also denied that the defender was abused, but they failed to explain why he lost his temper and exchanged punches with a steward in a row sparked when players were asked to warm down elsewhere.

DAILY STAR

Both clubs discounted reports of racist remarks being made in the incident. But Chelsea sources last night claimed Evra threw the first punch and he apparently suffered a spilt eye after being punched.

DAILY MAIL

It is understood United players took exception to being told they could not run on a muddy part of the pitch, even though Premier League rules say the playing surface must be made available to the opposition.

A heated exchange then took place, during which one United player allegedly abused Chelsea's head groundsman and a member of the Stamford Bridge groundstaff threatened John O'Shea.

Photographs showed Evra trading blows with Bethell.

THE INDEPENDENT

Chelsea will stand by their groundsman who fought with Evra on the pitch and have said they have no plans to sack the individual.

United and Chelsea have said there is no truth in the suggestions that Evra was racially abused before the clash, although United refused to release a joint statement denying the claims.

United say it was Evra who was hit first while Chelsea are satisfied that their employee only lashed out after he was struck.

Pictures show the Chelsea groundsman in question, with a tattoo on his left arm, aiming a punch at United's French left-back.




see also
Chelsea & Man Utd in fight probe
28 Apr 08 |  Man Utd
Queiroz questions referee Wiley
26 Apr 08 |  Man Utd
Man Utd could crack, says Grant
26 Apr 08 |  Chelsea
Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
26 Apr 08 |  Premier League


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