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Sep 29, 2008

Espanyol blame Barca players for inciting violence

Espanyol are planning to report certain Barcelona players to the police for inciting the violent scenes which marred Saturday's La Liga derby in the Catalan capital.

The match, which Barca won 2-1 in dramatic style thanks to two late goals, was stopped and the players left the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys pitch for several minutes during the second half following ugly scenes in the stands where flares were thrown in the direction of the home fans.

Five people were detained by police and an investigation has been launched following the trouble, with Espanyol insisting they will seek to prosecute those responsible, and among those Espanyol deem culpable are several members of the Barcelona team.

"[The club] will report the provocative behaviour of some of the [Barcelona] players to the anti-violence commission," Espanyol general director Pedro Tomas told Spanish newspaper Marca.

Tomas claimed the Barca players' celebrations after their goal were excessive and felt some players "encouraged and provoked the violent members of the crowd."

However, despite the complaint against the players, Tomas admitted the scenes in the stadium constituted a "premeditated attack organised over the internet against Espanyol fans" by hooligans who wanted to mark the final derby game at the Montjuic-based stadium before Espanyol move to the newly constructed Estadio Cornellá-El Prat next season.

In the week leading up to the game an announcement was posted on the website of the notorious Boixos Nois, a Barcelona supporters group who were banned from attending Barcelona games by club president Joan Laporta at the start of his reign in 2003 and who were subsequently involved in sending death threats to Laporta and his family.

The announcement said the group planned to "give (the Espanyol fans) the send-off they deserve". Espanyol are reportedly set to receive a 2,000 to 3,000 euros fine for each flare thrown.

Tomas, who will meet with security secretary of the Generalitat (autonomous Catalan government) to discuss measures to prevent the sale of tickets to fans with a history of violence, defended his club's role in the incident.

"The private security services in the stadium did not have adequate support from the police to carry out their work and search those attending the game," he continued in El Mundo Deportivo.

"The sale of tickets is completely free, we cannot do a thing unless we are stopped by the government. It was a sad day for Espanyol, for football and for Catalonia and we have to do something so that this does not happen again. In 30 years I've never seen anything like it. And we all need to act to change it."

Thierry Henry defended his actions during the game, claiming he celebrated his first goal in eight games with no more vigour than he would have shown against any other side.

"It was a derby and I celebrated my goal with the same energy as I did at Arsenal, with no extra enthusiasm" he told French newspaper L'Equipe. "But us, the players, we didn't see what happened exactly. Our job was to try and win the game."

On Sunday Laporta condemned the actions of the five supporters arrested, and insisted his players in no way contributed to the troubles.

"People shouted at me as if I was responsible for what was happening," he said. "I can only tell them we take absolutely no responsibility and that Barca have spent six years taking measures in order to stop these kinds of incidents from happening in the stadium.

"I want to be absolutely clear that Barcelona players condemn violent acts. Furthermore, not all the fans who were there acted violently. So when it comes to the Barca players I won't hear a word said against them."

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