(Reuters) - Merseyside Police have arrested two men from Rome on suspicion of attempted murder after a man was left with serious injuries following an incident ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.
Police said in a statement that a 53-year-old man from Ireland had suffered a head injury and was in a critical condition in hospital.
“We believe the victim was in Liverpool with his brother for the Liverpool v Roma semi-final and was assaulted during an altercation between Roma and Liverpool fans near to the Albert pub at about 7.35pm,” police said.
“Witnesses report that the victim was hit with a belt and then fell to the ground.”
Police said the men, aged 25 and 26, had been taken in for questioning.
The BBC reported that a group of Roma supporters had attacked Liverpool fans using belts.
Liverpool, who won the match 5-2, said they had been in touch with the emergency services and would offer any support they could to the fan and his family.
“Liverpool Football Club is shocked and appalled after a Liverpool supporter was left in a critical condition having been attacked prior to the Champions League fixture against AS Roma,” the club said on their website.
“Our thoughts, in the first instance, are with the victim and his family at this very traumatic time.”
Television images from the BBC showed groups of youths fighting outside the stadium before the game, with one person seen lying in the street receiving attention while fighting continued. One male was filmed carrying a hammer.
UEFA condemned the “vile attack” and said potential disciplinary proceedings could be initiated after detailed reports of the incident are received.
“Uefa is deeply shocked by the vile attack that occurred ahead of the Liverpool FC v AS Roma match and our thoughts are with the victim and his family,” European soccer’s governing body said in a statement.
“The perpetrators of this ignominious attack have no place in and around football and we trust they will be dealt with utmost severity by the authorities.”
Roma also said that the “abhorrent behaviour” displayed by a minority of their fans had bought shame to the Italian club.
"AS Roma condemns in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent behaviour of a small minority of travelling fans who brought shame on the club... after getting involved in clashes with Liverpool supporters before last night's fixture," Roma said on their website www.asroma.com.
“There is no place for this type of vile behaviour in football and the club is now cooperating with Liverpool Football Club, UEFA and the authorities.”
There were also violent scenes before Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final game against Manchester City at Anfield earlier this month which resulted in the Merseyside club being charged by UEFA.
Writing by Peter Rutherford in Seoul and Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly