UK Politics

Ed Balls draws blood in clash with football opponent

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Media captionEd Balls: "It was completely unintentional"

Ed Balls left an opponent with a bloodied eye in the annual party conference football match between Labour and political journalists.

The shadow chancellor clashed with the Northern Echo's Rob Merrick in the game at Manchester City's Etihad complex.

The pair were contesting a 50-50 ball on the edge of the journalists' penalty area when an elbow from Mr Balls left a cut under Mr Merrick's right eye.

The reporter left the pitch for medical treatment as blood covered his shirt.

He later returned to be named man-of-the-match, in a game which ended in a 3-1 victory for the Westminster press corps.

'Brilliant goal'

"Starting #Lab14 at Manchester Royal Infirmary....but worth it! @LobbyXI 3-1 victory. Injury a complete accident," tweeted the injured reporter.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rob Merrick had to leave the field for medical treatment

After the match Mr Balls said he hoped Merrick had not sustained any lasting damage.

"I was about to score a brilliant goal in the top right hand corner," he said.

"As I steadied myself to shoot Rob came piling in from behind attempting to nick the ball and came off worst."

It is the second year running the Labour team, featuring frontbenchers Jim Murphy and Sadiq Khan, has been defeated in the conference showdown.

Slimline frame

Mr Balls has lost a stone in weight since his last appearance in the annual match, which is supported by the Football Association and raises cash for charity.

Speaking at a reception for conference delegates from the south east of England on Saturday night, he joked about his new, slimline frame.

"A couple of weeks ago I said to Ed Miliband if you're thinking of doing a photo-opportunity eating a bacon sandwich if I were you I'd get some practice in.

"He said it looks like you've done quite enough practice already."

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