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Fans face beach ball search

Image: Beached: Pepe Reina is beaten be Darren Bent's shot

Manchester United fans are to be searched for beach balls before their clash with Liverpool on Sunday.

Man Utd fans snap up beach sets ahead of Anfield clash

Manchester United fans are to be searched for beach balls before their clash with Liverpool on Sunday in a bid to stop a Darren Bent goal "tribute" at Anfield. Liverpool beach balls have sold out on the club's official website with United fans thought to be snapping up copies of the now infamous red ball. And although Liverpool are not planning any specific measures ahead of kick-off, fans will be searched before the game and any offending items - including beach balls - will be confiscated. "It will be the normal search policy," said a Liverpool spokesperson. Reds supporters watched in disbelief as they lost 1-0 to Sunderland on Saturday when a shot by Bent hit a beach ball and swerved past goalkeeper Pepe Reina. The toy had been thrown on to the pitch by a young Liverpool fan - who now has a number of Facebook appreciation sites dedicated to him by rival fans. When visited the Anfield website, a message appeared saying "product not available". It is thought the beach sets have sold out rather than been withdrawn. A spokesman for Liverpool FC was not available for comment. Meanwhile, messages have appeared from Liverpool fans on internet forums venting hatred at the boy.


Merseyside Police said they had not yet identified the youngster, and that the matter is being dealt with by Northumbria Police. A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said the boy did not have to be escorted out of the stadium for his own protection. She said investigations into the ball-throwing incident were continuing. Dave Usher, editor of the Liverpool Way fanzine, said the boy should not be blamed for Liverpool's defeat and slammed the witch-hunt against him. "I think there's been a hysterical over-reaction to be honest," he told Sky News. "I mean obviously he shouldn't have thrown it on the pitch ... but it seems it was thrown on and Pepe's put it in the back of the goal. "And it's been there for a few minutes and the wind's caught it and blown it out so I think the witch-hunt against the boy is just stupid." Mike Jones, the referee at the centre of the controversy, has been removed from the Premier League match list for this weekend having allowed Bent's effort to stand when the game should have been stopped due to "outside interference". Jones will take charge of Peterborough versus Scunthorpe in the Championship.

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