Aaron Ramsey on Sunday starred as Juventus beat title rivals Inter 2-0 to reclaim top spot in Serie A in a game played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Earlier in the day, Italian Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora had called for the league season to be put on hold and his statement caused chaos at the early game between SPAL and Parma, with confused players sent back to the dressing rooms from the tunnel before eventually taking to the pitch 75 minutes after the scheduled kickoff. SPAL won the match 1-0.
Juventus’ game against Inter in Turin did go ahead, although in an empty Allianz Stadium, with the defending champions taking a one-point lead over SS Lazio at the top of the table.
“It’s all a little strange and sad to play football in these conditions, sad for the fans and the players,” Juventus director Fabio Paratici told Sky Sport Italia. “We trained in the empty stadium yesterday to get accustomed to the situation, but to be honest, I don’t think we can ever really get used to it.”
Reports in Italy late on Sunday suggested that the Serie A season could be suspended today once government officials have met with the league and player representatives.
“Our position is that Juventus will respect what the authorities indicate,” Paratici said. “We all understand that this is the situation and we must behave responsibly to help ensure it passes as quickly as possible.”
Juve coach Maurizio Sarri told Sky Sport Italia that he “doesn’t know what is the right thing to do” when it comes to the thorny question of canceling matches.
“What have to I ask is whether it’s right to take away two hours of enjoyment from those who are stuck indoors, or if there really is a serious risk for the players and staff, I just don’t know the answer to those questions,” the 61-year-old said.
On the game itself, he added: “This is an important victory, but there are still 12 games to go, so it’s a long road ahead.”
Antonio Conte’s third-placed Inter are now nine points adrift, but with a game in hand on Juve and Lazio.
Douglas Costa went closest in a tight first half, but was denied by an excellent save from Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
The hosts broke the deadlock 10 minutes after halftime when Cristiano Ronaldo got to a low ball first inside the penalty area, with it then falling kindly for Ramsey to sweep a low shot into the net from close range.
The 29-year-old Wales midfielder created his side’s second goal 12 minutes later, playing a neat one-two with Paulo Dybala, who wriggled clear of two defenders and fired home.
Inter substitute Christian Eriksen went close to pulling one back when he drilled a shot narrowly over the crossbar.
Things went from bad to worse for the away side when Daniele Padelli, sitting on the substitutes’ bench, was shown a red card for dissent.
The climax of the season remains uncertain, though, with Italian Footballers’ Association president Damiano Tommasi tweeted that “stopping football is the most useful thing for our country right now.”
“The teams to cheer are playing in our hospitals, in emergency rooms,” he wrote.
Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fourth goal since returning to AC Milan could not prevent the seven-time European champions from slipping to a 2-1 loss at home to struggling Genoa. UC Sampdoria defeated Hellas Verona 2-1, while Udinese were held to a goalless draw by ACF Fiorentina.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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