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Apr 15, 2013

Mel and Igiebor issue apologies

The fallout from Friday night's thrilling 3-3 Seville city derby has continued with Real Betis boss Pepe Mel and midfielder Nosa Igiebor both apologising for celebrating their side's last-gasp equaliser with offensive gestures and Sevilla defender Fernando Fazio reportedly fighting with his own team's fans hours after the game.

The eagerly-awaited clash at the Estadio Benito Villamarin saw Sevilla race into a 3-0 first-half lead with two goals from Ivan Rakitic and one from Alvaro Negredo, before Dorlan Pabon pounced on a Gary Medel mistake to pull one back for Betis just before the break.

The second period was even more dramatic with Ruben Castro's penalty making it 3-2 to Betis, a harsh red card for Medel giving the home team further hope, and substitute Igiebor equalising with an 89th-minute header.

The excitement did not end there, however, with the last-gasp goalscorer, unpopular at Betis after returning a full month late from this year's African Nations Cup, celebrating by apparently directing two one-finger salutes at his own fans.

The Nigeria international clarified the situation on Monday morning by saying he wanted to apologise to Betis fans, but not to the few who had racially abused him earlier as he had warmed up on the sidelines.

"I want to apologise to the fans for the gesture, which was not directed at them," Nosa told Estadio Deportivo. "But I will not tolerate the racial abuse which I was receiving from some brainless fanatics. The act came from frustration."

Mel was caught on camera reacting with a similar gesture as he leapt from the bench amid delirium inside the ground. He denied after the game that he had directed his peineta at former Sevilla boss Joaquin Caparros, with whom he has not always seen eye to eye.

"I made a gesture, but everyone here knows my respect for Sevilla," the ex-Betis striker said. "The person himself knows who it was for. It had nothing to do with Sevilla."

The coach offered a more complete apology via his Twitter account on Saturday.

"I insist that the unfortunate gesture was not for Sevilla nor for 'sevillismo'," the tweet read. "Even still I apologise for my stupidity. I am sorry."

Fazio was reportedly insulted by a member of his side's Biris ultras as he picked up his car near Sevilla's Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan in the early hours of Saturday morning. The Argentine defender got out of the vehicle to confront the supporter, and blows were exchanged, before team-mates Manu del Moral and Andres Palop intervened to calm the situation.

This is not the first altercation between Sevilla's ultras and players this season, with Rakitic, Emir Spahic and Diego Perotti all having been involved in similar unsavoury incidents with Biris angry at the team's poor performances.

Betis remain in seventh place, still six points ahead of their neighbours, and are well set for a Europa League spot, with an outside chance of making the top four and the Champions League.

Sevilla are now tenth, and still in with a shout for European qualification, which president Jose Maria del Nido has said is vital if they are to hang on to star names such as Negredo and Rakitic during the summer transfer window.

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