Police to probe Mersey derby fracas

LONDON - Merseyside police confirmed yesterday that they would be talking to both Liverpool and Everton following ugly scenes during Sunday's derby between the sides at Anfield.

LONDON - Merseyside police confirmed yesterday that they would be talking to both Liverpool and Everton following ugly scenes during Sunday's derby between the sides at Anfield.

Liverpool won 1-0 to strengthen their hold on fourth place in the Premier League, but the game was soured by allegations Everton captain Phil Neville had been punched and spat at by rival fans.

"Police will be speaking to the clubs involved," confirmed a police spokesman.

It was complaints by Everton that prompted the inquiry.

They were unhappy that Neville - whose brother Gary, the Manchester United defender, is a particular hate-figure for Liverpool fans thanks to a number of provocative comments - was abused as he prepared to take a throw-in.

They were also disappointed by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's complaints about Everton fans' taunting of Steven Gerrard, specifically those chants that questioned whether he really is the father of his daughter.

"We felt it necessary to try to involve the safety officers and police because we cannot have a situation where supporters are having physical contact with professional footballers during the game," said Everton spokesman Ian Ross.

"We want to make sure that doesn't happen again at the Merseyside derby. While we would never condone the singling out of individual players for vitriolic insults, it is a shame that Mr Benitez chose to ignore the actions of his own club's supporters.

"Not only was Joleon Lescott subjected to an afternoon-long barrage of quite disgusting and quite audible abuse, Phil Neville was seemingly spat at several times and was also punched in the back by a supporter as he took a throw-in." - Sapa-DPA

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