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Violent clashes mar match at Maracana

Locals and Argentinian fans started fighting behind one of the goals during the playing of the national anthems

Violent clashes mar match at Maracana

Locals and Argentinian fans fighting at the stadium 

RIO DE JANEIRO: The start of the match between Brazil and Argentina was delayed by half an hour after violent clashes erupted between police and Argentinian fans at Maracana Stadium on Tuesday.

Locals and Argentinian fans started fighting behind one of the goals during the playing of the national anthems, prompting the Brazilian police to charge at the travelling contingent with night sticks drawn.

Some Argentina fans responded by ripping up and throwing seats at the officers as nearby fans panicked and came onto the pitch to escape the fighting.

One Argentina fan lay prone on the pitch with a bloodied face before being taken from the stadium on a stretcher.

The Argentina team, led by captain Lionel Messi, went over to the stands to try and calm the situation before leaving the pitch and returning to the dressing room. Argentinian players urged the Police to stop lashing out at the travelling supporters, Yashin trophy winner Emiliano Martinez jumped the stands and tried to pull a baton from a police officer beating up the people.

“We saw how Brazilian police was hitting the people, again repressing the people,” Messi said in a pitchside television interview. “It already happened in the Libertadores final. We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy.”

Later, the Argentina players eventually returned once the police had corralled the visiting fans in a pen and the match started after a lengthy delay. Argentina won 1-0 with a 63rd-minute headed winner from defender Nicolas Otamendi and celebrated the victory over their fiercest rivals in front of their fans at the same end of the ground where the trouble had occurred.

It was a third straight defeat for five-times World Cup winners Brazil, who had midfielder Joelinton sent off 18 minutes from time.

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