Akinfeev grateful for support

28 March 2015 10:32

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has thanked well-wishers for their support after being struck by a lit flare thrown from the crowd during their ill-fated European Championship qualifier against Montenegro on Friday night.

The incident happened within a minute of kick-off in Podgorica, causing the match to be suspended for around half an hour while the 28-year-old received treatment before eventually being carried off the pitch and taken to a local hospital.

Play resumed but trouble then erupted between the players in the second half after Russia's Roman Shirokov missed a penalty with the score at 0-0, and with further objects coming from the stands both teams left the field with German referee Deniz Aytekin calling the game off after 67 minutes.

Akinfeev was able to travel back to Moscow with his team-mates later that evening, with team doctor Edward Bezuglov telling the Russian Football Federation's (RFU) website that the goalkeeper had been diagnosed with "a concussion and burns to the neck" and would continue his treatment in his homeland.

And the player himself issued a short statement on www.rfs.ru, saying: "I want to say thank you to all those who supported me. I feel fine now.

"Unfortunately these things can happen sometimes in football. But I hope nothing like this ever happens again in Montenegro or any other country in the world."

The RFU, meanwhile, claimed it had asked UEFA not to let the match continue after the incident but that request had been ignored, and it had now submitted an official protest over events.

President Nikolai Tolstoy said: "We can only regret the ugly behaviour of Montenegro fans which marred the important match between Montenegro and Russia.

"After the match the RFU filed an official protest to UEFA. We had warned the UEFA delegate immediately after the incident in the first minute, when our goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was hit by a flare. The decision to continue the game after the episode was made by the delegate after consultations.

"The Russian team were forced to continue the match but I want to stress that we warned the delegates and have filed a protest to UEFA. In our view, the match should be forfeited by Montenegro."

Russia coach Fabio Capello was also disappointed the match was allowed to continue after Akinfeev was struck by a flare.

He said: "I don't have any particular comments to make other than that it was a very unpleasant situation.

"We are waiting for the decision of the match delegate. But in my opinion the game should have been stopped immediately."

A statement from UEFA on Friday night said it would "wait to receive reports from the delegate and referee to open disciplinary proceedings".

UEFA rules state: "If the referee decides to abandon the match, for example because the field is not fit for play, the remaining match time must be played either the next day or on another date set by the UEFA administration, unless the case is referred to the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body."

It is not the first time a match has been abandoned in this campaign.

Serbia and Albania's Group I meeting in October had to be called off after a brawl broke out when a drone carrying a political banner was flown onto the pitch in Belgrade.

Serbia were awarded a 3-0 victory but were unable to claim any advantage as both sides were docked three points and fined 100,000 euros (£78,000). Serbia were also made to play their next two qualifiers behind closed doors.

This latest abandonment comes after UEFA president Michel Platini warned of a return to the "dark days" of football hooliganism earlier this week.

Platini, who was re-elected for a third term as president, said there is a rising trend of "nationalism and extremism" in football stadiums and he called for a European sports police force to avoid problems witnessed in the "not-so-distant past".

Russia and Montenegro are currently third and fourth respectively in Group G, both on five points.

Source: PA