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Video: Soccer match suspended after pepper spray attack

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The Copa Libertadores round-of-16 match between bitter Argentine rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate was suspended Thursday after River Plate players were sprayed with a substance that seemed to affect their vision and irritated their eyes.

The first half of the match ended 0-0. River players rubbed their eyes as they entered the field to start the second half through a makeshift tunnel, many using their shirts to try to clear their vision.

Police and officials of both teams milled on the field for more than an hour before the match was suspended at Boca’s La Bombonera stadium.

Argentina's River Plate players run away from the bench after a Copa Libertadores soccer match against Boca Juniors was suspended and eventualy canceled after pepper spray was thrown from the stands towards River Plate players before the start of the second half.Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Argentina’s River Plate players run away from the bench after a Copa Libertadores soccer match against Boca Juniors was suspended and eventualy canceled after pepper spray was thrown from the stands towards River Plate players before the start of the second half.

It was not immediately clear when the game would be completed.

River Plate won the first-leg of the two-leg series 1-0 last week.

“It’s sad,” River coach Marcelo Gallardo repeated several times. “It’s unbelievable what happened.”

Television images showed a fan sliding a hand through the flexible tunnel that shields players entering the field. The images suggested he was spraying some kind of irritant.

About half of the crowd of 50,000 left quickly after the match. Hard-core fans stayed around with players from both teams standing at the middle of the field among police and officials.

This was the third match in 12 days for the two Buenos Aires rivals. Boca defeated River 2-0 in to take the lead in the Argentine first division, just ahead of River. Four days later, River defeated Boca 1-0 in the first leg of the round of 16 at River’s Monumental stadium.

Violence or threats of violence are endemic in almost every match — at all levels — in Argentine football. The Argentine Football Association has been criticized for doing little to stem the violence. AFA says it’s a societal problem.

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