Fiorentina fans await the start of the Coppa Italia final in Rome.

Napoli fan hospitalized, Roma fan under police guard after violence mars Coppa Italia final

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Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-1 in a frantic, fast-paced, attack-focused Coppa Italia final on Saturday night – but the play on the pitch has been overshadowed by the violence that broke out amongst fans in Rome prior to kickoff. A member of the Roma ultras  has been accused of attempted murder after allegedly shooting a Napoli fan in town for the Coppa Italia final.

Fans who tuned in to watch the game were met not with a soccer match, but with scenes of agitated fans, whispering officials, and police ensuring the situation remained under control. For a half-hour, confusion reigned, rumors abounded. Some media outlets reported that a Napoli fan was murdered prior to kickoff. Others reported that fan violence inside the stadium was what was delaying the match.

The delay was caused by Napoli supporters wanting confirmation that a fellow fan, known to be taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, had not been killed. Without such confirmation, the ultras, who hold much influence in calcio, did not want the game to be played. Napoli captain Marek Hamšík negotiated with both officials and the visiting ultras, and in the end the match kicked off 45 minutes late.

But while it may be some time before we have a clear picture of what actually happened prior to the Final – if we ever get that clear of a picture – some details have emerged. Although it was originally reported that the shooting was not connected to fan violence, but was rather the act of an opportunist preying on visiting fans, the worst of the violence did occur between two rival fan groups.

The shooting was not a result of clashes between fans of the two teams in the final, but rather between visiting Napoli supporters and the Roma ultras. Some reports suggest that Napoli fans first assaulted Daniele De Santis, a well-known member of the Roma ultras. Others allege that De Santis, along with others, ambushed the Napoli supporters, and when they fought back, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.

It remains to be seen which version is true. What we know, however, is that a bullet went through the lung of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito, lodging in his spine. De Santis, too, is in the hospital, suffering from serious head injuries. In total, three supporters were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Five police, two stewards and a firefighter were also reported injured, in separate clashes, often involving fights between Napoli and Fiorentina supporters.

This was meant to be a fantastic night for Napoli, who lifted their second Coppa Italia in three years. Instead the match was marred by ugly violence, a painful reminder that Italy still has a long way to go when it comes to cracking down on the influence and sway held by the ultras – and above all, the methods they apply to remind others of their place in the calcio hierarchy.

 

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.