A night of European football turned into chaos for Aston Villa as violent clashes erupted between Polish football hooligans and the police just moments before their Europa Conference League match against Legia Warsaw. The scenes outside Villa Park were harrowing as Legia fans unleashed a barrage of missiles, leaving a police officer engulfed in flames and three others injured. Two police horses and two dogs also suffered injuries amid the tumultuous confrontation.
The skirmish ensued after authorities, equipped in riot gear, cornered the aggressive fans near the Aston Villa stadium, following an earlier reduction in Legia's ticket allocation due to prior clashes. Despite heightened security measures by West Midlands Police, chaos intensified when they attempted to relocate Legia fans holding tickets, resulting in an empty away section during the kickoff.
Ugly and violent scenes outside Villa Park from Legia fans. Appears at least a couple of police officers have been injured. Big operation in place at #avfc to get the Legia Warsaw fans inside the stadium. pic.twitter.com/Ga1Lanu1d8
— Charlotte Duncker (@CharDuncker) November 30, 2023
West Midlands Police's statement on the unfolding events underscored the severity of the situation: “We're currently unable to allow away fans into Villa Park following disorder outside the stadium, which has seen missiles thrown at officers.”
The aftermath saw 39 arrests on charges such as violent disorder and assaulting law enforcement officers. In response to the turmoil, Aston Villa expressed disappointment in Legia Warsaw's lack of cooperation in managing their supporters, emphasizing their safety concern.
Aston Villa's strong condemnation of the violent behavior echoed in their statement: “In spite of numerous requests for cooperation from Legia Warsaw concerning their traveling supporters, no assistance on the serious safety matter of away fans attending Villa Park was forthcoming from the visiting club.”
However, Legia's statement shifted blame, accusing Aston Villa of exacerbating tensions with restrictive measures. The club's manager, Kosta Runjaic, desired their supporters' presence while refraining from delving into the details of the tumultuous events. This isn't the first time Villa has been in the news for unfortunate reasons, as their bus was attacked before their game against Burnley.
Despite the mayhem outside, on-field action saw Aston Villa take an early lead through Moussa Diaby, later leveling and securing a 2-1 victory against Legia. Amid the turmoil, Unai Emery's men maintained their focus to claim three crucial points in their group.