- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GENOA, ITALY (AP) - Serbia’s European Championship qualifier at Italy was stopped after seven minutes of play Tuesday night due to visiting fans throwing flares onto the field and lighting fireworks.

Serbia fans also clashed with police earlier in the day and delayed the start of the match for 45 minutes. Then when the game at Stadio Luigi Ferraris finally began, more flares and fireworks were thrown onto the field, and referee Craig Thomson of Scotland stopped the match.

It was unclear whether the game would resume or Italy would be awarded a 3-0 victory by forfeit. he teams returned to the locker rooms, and Italian fans began going home.

“We’re still evaluating the situation,” Italian security chief Roberto Massucci told RAI television.

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

Before the scheduled kickoff, 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.

Police dressed in riot gear confronted the fans and eventually the teams came back out. Serbia fans whistled and booed throughout their national anthem, but the game began.

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

The match was meant to be played in memory of four Italian soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Saturday. Several fan banners around the stadium paid tribute to the soldiers and Italy wore black armbands.

Serbia’s starting lineup include defender Neven Subotic, who spent part of his youth growing up in Salt Lake City and played for the United States Under-17 and Under-20 teams before switching nationalities.

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