- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GENOA, ITALY (AP) - The start of the Serbia’s European Championship qualifier at Italy on Tuesday night was delayed due to visiting fans throwing flares onto the field and lighting fireworks.

The teams came out and began to line up for the national anthems but then were sent back into the locker rooms as police in riot gear came out to confront spectators.

The teams eventually came back out and began warming up again, but there was no immediate sign when the game would begin.

European Championship qualifiers are played under the direction of the Union of European Football Associations, the regional governing body.

“We just had a meeting with the UEFA delegate, the Serbian police and our police to see if we can play but it seems very doubtful,” Italian soccer federation general director Antonello Valentini told RAI television.

A few fans with their heads covered climbed up onto a partition, took out tools and began cutting through a mesh fence. Glass partitions were broken.

At one point, Serbian players walked over to their fans.

“We didn’t applaud, we calmed down the fans,” Serbia captain Dejan Stankovic told RAI.

Serbia fans also clashed with police earlier in the day.

Even before the delay, Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic asked not to play following threats outside his hotel, according to the ANSA news agency.

Serbia lost 3-1 at home to Estonia on Friday. That match marked the debut of new coach Vladimir Petrovic, who was hired when Radomir Antic was fired following a 1-1 draw at home with Slovenia last month. Serbia had a disappointing first-round exit from the World Cup.