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Birmingham to probe pitch invasion

Birmingham City have pledged a full investigation after a flare was thrown at Aston Villa supporters during a violent pitch invasion on the eve of England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

The Premier League club said it was extremely disappointed at the "embarrassing" disorder following the Carling Cup quarter-final, which also saw seats ripped up.

Dozens of police and stewards struggled to contain home supporters who flooded on to the playing surface after Birmingham's 2-1 victory. A flare was thrown at Villa supporters before being thrown back on to the pitch and damage was also caused to a nearby pub and cars parked near the ground.

In a statement, the club said it would not tolerate the breaking of any stadium rules and would conduct an investigation in conjunction with the Football Association and police before taking appropriate action.

Birmingham's acting chairman, Peter Pannu, said: "Whilst we are very happy with the victory, we are extremely disappointed with the events that took place after the game.

"I promise there will be an impartial investigation by the club as we do not condone the embarrassing actions of certain individuals. An urgent meeting has been called involving all parties concerned and we will, of course, support the football authorities and police in this investigation."

Hundreds of fans were involved in a pitch invasion and trouble also broke out outside St Andrew's, prompting fears that the clashes might harm England's World Cup bid. West Midlands Police said five people were arrested following "sporadic outbursts" of disorder at the derby match.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish condemned the trouble, saying it reminded him of the "Dark Ages", but claimed it would not affect the World Cup vote. He told Sky Sports 1: "I don't think that will affect the World Cup bid, I'm sure that's already decided, and let's hope England gets it because it deserves it."

West Midlands Ambulance Service said 27 people were treated by ambulance staff after trouble before and after the match. Two police dogs were also injured when they were struck by missiles.

A spokesman said: "Those treated suffered a variety of injuries to their head, leg and arms. Of these, two men were taken to hospital; one, a 43-year-old man, was initially unconscious after suffering a head injury. The other man had a leg injury."

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