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Image: Marko Drobnjakovic/AP/Press Association Images

Branislav Ivanovic 'can't comprehend' the violent scenes during last night's Serbia v Albania qualifier

Chelsea defender says Albanian players didn’t want to continue due to being ‘unfit physically and mentally’.
Oct 15th 2014, 2:24 PM 8,400 6

SERBIAN CAPTAIN BRANISLAV IVANOVIC has said that his team wanted to carry on playing during last night’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania in Belgrade but that the opposition players felt they were ‘unfit physically and mentally’ to continue.

The game was abandoned after an extraordinary chain of events shortly before half-time. A drone carrying a ‘Greater Albania’ flag (an area that includes Serbia) was flown low inside the stadium before being pulled down by Serbian’s Stefan Mitrovic.

This sparked some ugly scenes between both teams before some home fans ran onto the field and assaulted Albanian players. Within minutes, smoke bombs and flares were launched onto the pitch and various missiles were thrown at Albanians players as they desperately tied to make their way to the tunnel.

Source: acascentrala/YouTube

After a temporary halt, referee Martin Atkinson later abandoned the game.

UEFA confirmed earlier today that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against both teams and that a verdict will be issued on 23rd October.

The deep historical and political background to the fixture (the long-standing issue of Kosovo and Albanian ethnicity in the region remain immensely sensitive topics) has led many to question the wisdom in allowing both countries face each other in a qualification format. But UEFA has defended its decision to do so on the grounds that neither country expressed concerns after the group  draw was made, that the countries weren’t involved in armed conflict and had normal diplomatic relations.

Serbia Albania Euro Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

There had been some attempts made to quell any potential trouble with Albania not making any tickets available for their travelling fans.

For the players, it was sure to have been a scarring episode with Chelsea defender Ivanovic saying afterwards:

“What happened is something we can’t comprehend. All I can say is that we wanted to carry on, we shielded the Albanian players every step of the way to the tunnel. The Albanian team said they were unfit physically and mentally to carry on after talking to the officials.”

Albania PM’s brother arrested as Euro qualifier abandoned

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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