Milan derby abandoned after fans' flare attack

Internazionale 0 - Milan 1; Match abandoned at 73 mins
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The Independent Online

Internazionale, one of the great names of European football, face suspension from Continental competition after rioting fans forced the abandonment of the Milanese derby last night. Inter were chasing an improbable four goals in 17 minutes to overturn Milan's 3-0 aggregate lead in this Champions' League quarter-final tie when Dida, Milan's Brazilian goalkeeper, was hit on the shoulder by a flare thrown from the Curva Nord where Inter's Ultras had gathered.

Internazionale, one of the great names of European football, face suspension from Continental competition after rioting fans forced the abandonment of the Milanese derby last night. Inter were chasing an improbable four goals in 17 minutes to overturn Milan's 3-0 aggregate lead in this Champions' League quarter-final tie when Dida, Milan's Brazilian goalkeeper, was hit on the shoulder by a flare thrown from the Curva Nord where Inter's Ultras had gathered.

Dozens of flares and other missiles were then thrown on to the pitch and the referee, Markus Merk, was forced to take the players off while firemen doused the flares and efforts were made to calm the crowd. The players, except Dida, returned after a 25-minute delay only for more flares to be thrown at Christian Abbiati, the substitute goalkeeper. Merk immediately abandoned the match.

Merk and the Uefa match delegate, Lars-Ake Lagrell, provisionally awarded the match to Milan, 1-0, a decision Uefa are likely to confirm today or tomorrow. Deciding how to deal with Inter may take longer. Roma were merely ordered to play behind closed doors after referee Anders Frisk abandoned a group stage match earlier this season after being himself hit by a missile. The relaxed response to the violence of the Inter crowd, many of whom cheered when Dida was hit, suggests that that punishment was insufficient deterrent.

Indeed, the failure of the Italian media to press either coach, Inter's Roberto Mancini, and Milan's Carlo Ancelotti, on the issue in the post-match press conference suggests the seriousness of the problem has not been grasped within the peninsula. So did the comment, from a senior police officer, that his force had confiscated many flares outside the ground and had therefore done their job.

All this is despite the domestic context. Last night's riot followed a grim weekend for Italian football with 85 policemen injured after outbreaks of hooliganism at five separate matches. The Italian government responded by threatening to close affected stadia. These events offer a worrying portent for Liverpool's fixture in Turin tonight.

The missile-throwing had been prompted by Merk disallowing a "goal" by Esteban Cambiasso as Inter struggled to break Milan down. The reaction may have been even worse had the supporters seen television replays which showed Milan striker Andrei Shevchenko escaping without punishment after butting Marco Materazzi, the Inter defender, in the third minute. Shevchenko then scored the "away" goal for Milan on the half-hour.

That meant Inter now needed four. With Dida in fine form that was not likely. Instead Inter's pain and shame grew as Adriano departed with a back injury, then their fans lost control. For Milan a winnable semi-final awaits; for Inter and Italian football in general, the future should involve serious self-examination.

Internazionale (4-2-3-1): Toldo; J Zanetti (Mihahlovic, h-t), Cordoba, Materazzi, Favalli; C Zanetti, Cambiasso; Van der Meyde, Veron, Kily Gonnzalez (Julio Cruz, h-t); Adriano (Martins, 50). Substitutes not used: Carini (gk), Ze Maria, Vieri, Karagounis.

Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida (Abbiati, 73); Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Shevchenko, Crespo (Rui Costa, 69). Substitutes not used: Pancaro, Kaladze, Brocchi, Serginho, Tomasson.

Referee: M Merk (Germany).

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