Serbia and Albania are both facing the possibility of being sanctioned by UEFA after their Euro 2016 qualifier was abandoned last night in bizarre circumstances.
The Group I encounter, which went ahead despite long-standing political tensions between the two nations, was initially halted just before half-time by a drone trailing a pro-Albania banner hovering over the the Partizan Stadium pitch.
However, the incident erupted after Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic brought down the flag, which seemed to upset a number of Albanian players and a melee involving some players from both sets of teams occurred.
It forced English referee Martin Atkinson to lead the teams off the field, as disruption in the stands threatened to boil over, with objects being thrown onto the pitch at Albanian players in the wake of the chaos.
UEFA is likely to take a dim view of the controversial incident and match delegate Hari Bin confirmed the governing body will investigate what happened in Belgrade.
Quoted by Serbian media, including the popular Sportske website, he said: ”You saw what happened and at this point I cannot speculate further as to who was responsible and accountable. UEFA will take further steps on the basis of the official report.”
Albanian supporters had been banned from entering the stadium by UEFA on safety grounds and the match was set against a backdrop of tight security.
Tensions have never been far from the surface between the nations over Kosovo, the province with which both countries share a disputed border and is recognised as independent by the United States and major European Union countries but not by Serbia – a bone of contention with Albania.
The tie was goalless at the time of the suspension and clear-cut chances were in short supply in the Serbian capital.
Zoran Tosic and Branislav Ivanovic both missed the target from the edge of the area as the hosts attempted to force the issue while Dusan Tadic’s long-distance effort was well blocked by Albania defender Andi Lila.
The best chance of the game fell to the visitors as an Ansi Agolli free-kick from the left wing found Mergim Mavraj, whose shot from inside the area was tipped wide by Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.
From the following corner, Lorik Cana’s header at the far post sailed wide, while the visitors were appearing to gain the upper hand before the controversy erupted.