Aston Villa vs Legia Warsaw
In a Word
Shameful: ‘Causing or deserving shame.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
On what should have been a joyous night of European football at Villa Park, events off the pitch dominated the headlines, rather than events on it.
On the pitch, Villa avenged their 3-2 defeat in Warsaw in a fairly economical manner, with excellently taken goals by Moussa Diaby & Alex Moreno, leaving them only needing a point to guarantee top spot in Group E.
Off the pitch, the situation was less salubrious.
In the run up to the game, we had known about the reputation of Legia’s away following when visiting foreign climes. From running battles in Madrid with Spanish police in 2016, to unsavoury scenes at Leicester City, two seasons ago, and more recently at AZ Alkmaar (after which they were banned from travelling to Zrinjski Mostar). The Polish club’s ticket allocation had been cut to just 1,002 (including hospitality) in anticipation of trouble, and, as events played out, this decision was vindicated.
On our approach to the stadium at around 7:15pm, walking in from Perry Barr, all seemed calm until we got to the (formerly McDonalds) roundabout at Witton Lane. Everything seemed different to the usual pre-match experience, with large groups of men, many on mobile phones, milling about and generally looking menacing. As we tried to walk up Witton Lane itself, we quickly saw that the police had barricaded the road off. Beyond the barricade, there were chaotic scenes, with flares going off and general disorder. I spoke to a visibly shaken police officer, who told us to take a detour, which routed us around the back of the Villa club shop.
We were more than happy to do so.
Upon entering the stadium we quickly realised that Legia’s fans had not been granted access, which again seems a wise decision in retrospect.
On the Holte End, we were aware of trouble to our left, as we looked at the pitch, and subsequent footage confirmed that this was due to groups of Legia fans throwing objects into the stadium from street level (including several condiments from burger vans, with varying degrees of accuracy).
After half-time, the guy who sits next to me told me that Legia fans had been attempting to gain access to the Holte concourse from outside (hence the club’s warnings during the game, about certain areas being not accessible at half-time). Thankfully, they were unsuccessful.
On the way out of the stadium, we were nervous as we anticipated more trouble, and our fears were realised as we saw a Villa fan with blood streaming down his face, in the vicinity of the McDonalds roundabout.
On the way home we heard the news that police officers had been injured, as well as their dogs and horses.
At the time of writing, 46 men have been charged with various offences relating to the trouble, including someone carrying a knife. Villa also announced they had lodged an official compliant to UEFA.
Attending this game felt like going back to the 1980’s. The only hope now is that UEFA take decisive action against Legia and prevent further trouble like Witton Lane experienced. Their club failed to acknowledge their transgressions and in their latest statement, tried to distance themselves from their own fans in an attempt to swerve a UEFA backlash.
The Polish club’s laughable response to the situation (basically blaming everyone but their own fans and themselves) sums up their attitude. The respect that Legia Warsaw fans gained from Villa fans that had travelled to Warsaw – despite the rest of Europe’s views on them – was lost instantly in an evening of madness.
Onwards & upwards.
Value rating: £22 (out of £30)