Australian soccer’s hierarchy has denounced a violent clash between Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers fans.
Rival supporters brawled at a Melbourne hotel some four hours before the start of Saturday night’s 1-1 draw between the clubs.
At least four people were injured, including a man aged in his 20s, who was hospitalised with an arm injury, as supporter groups used metal bars, sticks and chairs as weapons.
Later at the game, a series of flares were let off, and several upset spectators complained that they had been frightened by the behaviour of some fans.
Victoria Police said on Sunday night that two people had been charged as a result of the disturbances.
A 23-year-old man was charged with conduct endangering serious injury and discharging a missile during the brawl.
And a 29-year-old man was charged with conduct endangering injury as a result of his actions inside the stadium.
Both men will appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on April 14.
Football Federation Australia denounced the pre-game violence.
“The fans’ behaviour at the game was outstanding but what happened earlier outside the ground can’t be tolerated,” an FFA spokesman told AAP.
The pre-game brawl overshadowed an on-field classic between the second-placed Wanderers and third-placed Victory.
The visiting Wanderers took the lead when substitute Brendon Santalab, with his first touch of the game, scored in the 71st minute. But Victory equalised with one minute remaining when Gui Finkler spectacularly curled a free kick into the net.
Both teams will feature in finals, unlike the hapless Melbourne Heart who slipped to a 1-0 loss to fellow cellar-dwellers Wellington Phoenix on Friday night.
The defeat was the nail in the coaching coffin of coach John Aloisi, who was sacked the next day. Players were told of the decision on Sunday.
Heart chairman Peter Sidwell says everyone at his club must take the blame for the demise of Aloisi, who was dumped amid a 17-game winless streak, including 12 matches this season without a victory.
“We all bear responsibility, from top to bottom,” Sidwell told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“I addressed the players earlier today and told them we have all got some blood on our hands.”
Aloisi departed with eight wins from a 39-game tenure, and Heart chief executive Scott Munn described the sacking as among the toughest days in the club’s history.
“I leave here today incredibly upset that a great man has gone from the club and I played a part in that,” Munn told reporters on Sunday.
The Heart sent an SOS to former coach former coach John van’t Schip on Sunday. Van’t Schip, who steered Heart to the finals in 2011-12, had been working at the club in a part-time capacity as technical director and mentor for Aloisi.
He was expected to decide within 48 hours whether to take the part-time reigns as Heart search for a long-term replacement for Aloisi, whose assistant coach Hayden Foxe has also left the club.
Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion player Nicolas Anelka triggered controversy on Saturday when he made a gesture many interpret to be a modified ‘Nazi-style’ salute during the English Premier League clash with West Ham.