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Stabbing, trouble flares at West Ham game

LONDON — A fan was stabbed during a large-scale riot before an English League Cup match between West Ham and Millwall on Tuesday, the worst case of fan violence in English soccer in several years.

Metropolitan Police said hundreds of fans were involved in the disorder before the game at Upton Park. One man was stabbed close to the stadium and taken to a hospital, where police said he was in a stable condition.

Several hundred fans confronted each other in streets close to the stadium, and police revealed TV footage of supporters hurling bottles and bricks at officers.

Inside the stadium, fans of both teams taunted each other, and stewards and police struggled to stop West Ham fans from getting at the Millwall supporters. West Ham supporters ran onto the field several times, many of them after their team went ahead in extra time.

The teams walked off the field but returned after a few minutes. At the end of the game, which West Ham won 3-1, more of their fans ran onto the field to celebrate.

As spectators left the stadium, police closed off several roads around Upton Park to guide fans toward the local underground station. About 200 officers in riot gear were near the station backed up by 20 on horseback.

"We absolutely condemn all of the disorder that has occurred at Upton Park," the Football Association said in a statement. "We will be working with all parties, including the police and clubs, to establish the facts surrounding tonight's events.

"We strongly expect all culprits to be banned from football for life."

The domestic game in England has been relatively trouble free after a strong crackdown in the late 1980s that followed some of the worst tragedies to mar the game.

Beginning in the 1970s, English fans were responsible for violence all over Europe in club competitions and major international championships. A five-year ban from European competitions following the deaths of 39 people at the 1985 European Cup final in Brussels between Liverpool and Juventus led to tougher policing.

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, a former Chelsea star who has spent several years in English football, said he never expected trouble.

"I've been involved in difficult games and things happened. Here, I've played seven years and I've never seen it like this," Zola said. "It's certainly not good for football. I was completely shocked. Totally.

"I knew it was a game that meant a lot for the two sets of supporters, but I didn't imagine it like this. What can I say? I'm a sport man. I love the game. I love to go on the pitch and try and make it exciting for the supporters and enjoyable for everybody to watch. This was beyond my powers."

Millwall manager Jenny Jackett said his team's fans did not run onto the field and he was saddened to hear about the stabbing outside the ground.

"We've got a passionate game in this country," Jackett said, "but when it oversteps the mark then things have to be done."