Football - Sofia police detain 66 before city derby, CSKA go second

Police detained 66 suspected soccer hooligans hours before CSKA Sofia's 3-0 win over bitter city rivals Levski in the Bulgarian league at the Vasil Levski national stadium on Saturday.

Reuters

Sofia police said most had been held for drunken behavior or public order violations ahead of the "eternal derby", as matches between the two most popular Bulgarian clubs are known.

"The offenders threatened the life and health of many citizens," Sofia police chief inspector Anton Zlatanov told reporters.

Skirmishes broke out near the stadium with rival fans throwing a number of fireworks, missiles and other objects at each other.

The fixture has a long history of crowd violence. A 30-year-old man was killed by a bomb in 2000 and hooliganism and arrests have been rife since.

Extra police officers were on hand to monitor the fans in the city centre and around the stadium and patrols have been also stepped up near Sofia's asylum centers, as reports said hooligans could attempt to assault refugees.

Thousands of illegal immigrants are seeking asylum in Bulgaria in an attempt to escape from the Syrian civil war. Last week the Sofia Municipality said it could not handle more refugees as it has no more funds and accommodation.

Police said seven Levski fans and one CSKA supporter were arrested after attempted to assault four people of African origin in front of a mosque in the Sofia downtown on Friday.

DRASTIC CHANGES

Following the win, 31-times Bulgarian champions CSKA climbed to second with 26 points from 13 matches, two points behind champions Ludogorets, who have played one game fewer.

The Reds, chasing their first league title since 2008, totally outplayed their opponents and put the issue beyond doubt after scoring three times within seven minutes in the first half.

Serbian midfielder Nemanja Milisavljevic opened the scoring on the half hour mark after Emil Gargorov's clever assist and defender Apostol Popov doubled CSKA's lead with a firm header in the 35th minute.

Two minutes later, Bulgaria international Gargorov made it 3-0 from close range from Brazilian Marcinho's left-wing cross in a sour debut for Levski coach Antoni Zdravkov.

"It was a fantastic match and a fantastic win, we could've won by a bigger margin," said CSKA coach Stoycho Mladenov, known as "The executioner of Liverpool" for his double in a 2-0 win over the English side in the 1982 European Cup which secured a semi-final place.

"There'll be drastic changes and expulsion of all these 'stars'," Levski owner Todor Batkov said, also hinting that he could temporarily stop financing the team. "The coach will keep his post."

This month, Zdravkov was named Levski coach a day after Ivaylo Petev, who was expected to take charge of the club, decided to leave after being undressed and forced out of his first news conference by hostile fans.

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