ROME, March 9 (Reuters) - Talking points from the Serie A, where only six matches were scheduled in this round due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
All games were ordered to take place in empty stadiums until April 3 by the Italian government, and six matches that were postponed on the weekend of February 29-March 1 were moved forward by a week.
The opening game of the weekend between Parma and SPAL was plunged into chaos when players were told to return to their dressing rooms just minutes before kickoff, following a request from Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora to stop matches immediately due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The game, which SPAL won 1-0, eventually went ahead 75 minutes later than scheduled, but sparked a furious debate.
The players’ union (AIC) called for the suspension of the league, describing continuing as “dangerous” for players, but Serie A organisers accused the union of “contravening what was in the Government decree”, which allowed games to be played in empty stadiums.
This prompted Spadafora to accuse the league and its president Paolo Dal Pino of being “irresponsible”. Dal Pino reacted by accusing the sports minister of “ignoring the rules and rejecting the responsibility of his role”.
An extraordinary meeting has been called for Tuesday to discuss the potential suspension of the league.
Serie A matches made for an eerie spectacle, as the shouts of the players and coaches could be heard ringing round empty grounds.
AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli said “playing without spectators isn’t football” after his side lost 2-1 to Genoa in a deserted San Siro, while Udinese boss Luca Gotti described a “surreal situation” at his team’s 0-0 draw with Fiorentina.
Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella said “it’s a different sport” behind closed doors, adding that he celebrated his second goal in a 2-1 win over Verona by going to the camera, as it was “a way to be with the fans”.
The strangest atmosphere was in Turin, where a crucial clash between title rivals Juventus and Inter Milan was played out at an empty Allianz Stadium.
Paulo Dybala’s sensational winning goal was the highlight of an impressive 2-0 win that sent Juve back to the top of the Serie A table, one point ahead of Lazio and nine clear of Inter in third.
Inter coach Antonio Conte, making his return to his former employers, tried to put things in perspective after suffering his second defeat of the season against Juve.
“This project only started seven months ago and we are trying to do our best in terms of squad, but cannot compare to a side that dominated Italian football for eight years,” he said.
“We must build the project, brick-by-brick, year-by-year, to reach the level of experience, quality and character that Juventus have. I see all the others as very distant from Juve right now.” (Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Pritha Sarkar)