AN Irish Liverpool supporter left in a critical condition after he was assaulted by Roma fans near Anfield last night has been named.
Sean Cox, 53, from Dunboyne in Co. Meath, is fighting for his life in a Merseyside hospital after he was attacked by at least two Italian men before the Reds' Champions League semi-final against AS Roma.
The Irishman travelled to the game with his brother and was drinking at the Albert Pub, close to Anfield stadium, when he was assaulted at around 7.35pm.
Paramedics arrived at the scene and treated Mr Cox for severe head injuries, which are thought to have been inflicted by a belt.
It is understood that Mr Cox's wife has traveled to Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool to be at his bedside as his grown-up children remain at home awaiting further news.
Two Italian nationals were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder inside the stadium during the game, which Liverpool won 5-2.
The two men are believed to be from Rome and are aged 25 and 26.
Speaking on RTE Radio One's Today programme this morning, Sunday Times football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft said he witnessed the unprovoked attack on Mr Cox.
Police and ambulance in attendance at the Albert pub next to Anfield.
Reports of clashes between Liverpool and Roma fans before kick-off. pic.twitter.com/E1QZHDtzGy
— talkSPORT 📻 (@talkSPORT) April 24, 2018
"I was walking past the Albert Pub into the ground through the gates, and I could see a group of Italian lads coming down the street by Anfield," he said.
"It just didn't look right so I looked back around, they had run into the middle of the road and were chanting at local fans.
"It seemed like they wanted to make a show, a couple of guys shouted back and that was enough for an attack.
"They just had belts in their hands. They moved in on the Liverpool fans outside the Albert.
"It was quite coordinated and quite horrible really."
Mr Norcroft said the assault was over "really, really quickly".
He added: "The poor fella was attacked, he was one of the older Liverpool fans outside the Albert, which is quite a sedate pub really.
There was a lot of police in the area but they weren't on the scene at all. By the time anyone reacted, these Roma fans were running off and the guy was lying in the middle of the road.
"He was part of a group of fans outside the pub. There were two or three of them but he was the one who got the brunt of it.
"It looked to me like they wanted to make a quick attack and get out of there. He was a soft target. He was in the middle of the street. He was out out cold.
I really hope by the time we go to Rome for the 2nd leg the Irish fan attacked last night is awake and fit enough to maybe watch the game.. YNWA SEAN COX FROM MEATH. pic.twitter.com/2gRQzLI3t4
— stephen (@stephenk75) April 25, 2018
"I was out twenty yards away, I went back to see what had happened. He was absolutely out cold. Lots of people around him were very concerned.
"The police came around and you could see they were concerned. They cordoned the area off and waited for the ambulance to come."
In a statement, AS Roma condemned the "abhorrent behaviour" of their supporters in the "strongest possible terms".
A club spokesperson added: "A small minority of fans brought shame on the club and the vast majority of Roma’s well-behaved supporters at Anfield after getting involved in clashes with Liverpool supporters before last night’s fixture.
“There is no place for this type of vile behavior in football and the club is now cooperating with Liverpool Football Club, UEFA and the authorities.
“The club’s thoughts and prayers are with the 53-year-old Liverpool fan in hospital and his family at this time.”
European football's governing body also condemned the attack this morning.
UEFA’s statement read: “UEFA is deeply shocked by the vile attack that occurred ahead of Liverpool FC v AS Roma and our thoughts are with the victim and his family.
“The perpetrators of this ignominious attack have no place in football and we trust they will be dealt with utmost severity by the authorities.
“Uefa is waiting to receive full reports before deciding on potential disciplinary charges."
Liverpool FC have offered Mr Cox and his family the club's "full support at this very traumatic time."