AC Milan’s hopes of UEFA Champions League soccer next season were in the balance after they had Sulley Muntari dismissed before halftime before drawing 0-0 with AS Roma on Sunday in a match briefly halted for racist behavior in the crowd.
Visitors AS Roma also had 36-year-old captain Francesco Totti sent off for elbowing in an unsavory match which was halted for about a minute because of racist chanting by AS Roma fans aimed at Milan’s Mario Balotelli.
ACF Fiorentina kept up the chase for third place by beating US Citta di Palermo 1-0 in atrocious conditions, condemning the Sicilians to Serie B after a turbulent season in which they employed three different coaches, two of them twice.
AC Siena, beaten 2-1 at SSC Napoli, also went down, joining previously relegated Delfino Pescara 1936 in Serie B, while Genoa, held 0-0 at home by injury-ravaged Inter, and Torino, who drew 1-1 at AC Chievo Verona, scrambled to safety.
Serie A’s leading scorer Edinson Cavani struck Napoli’s first goal, taking his tally to 28 for the season.
Napoli had already clinched second place behind champions Juventus and a place in the Champions League group stage next season.
Antonio di Natale, 35, scored both goals as fifth-placed Udinese beat Atalanta BC 2-1 to stay on course for the Europa League, with SS Lazio two points behind in sixth after they beat UC Sampdoria 2-1. Parma lost 2-0 at home to Bologna.
Milan needed to beat Roma to clinch third place and a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds with a game to spare, but, after a lively 40 minutes, it all went wrong with a moment of madness from Muntari.
The Ghanaian was booked, lost his temper and grabbed the referee’s arm as Milan players protested, leaving the official with no option but to send him off.
Roma seemed uncomfortable with their numerical advantage and continued defending for much of the second half, causing the game to deteriorate into a niggly affair.
Play was stopped by the referee early in the second half after Roma fans jeered Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
Following the guidelines set down by the Italian federation and the government’s sports security watchdog, a warning was announced over the public address system and play resumed.
Milan survived when Erik Lamela appeared to be tripped by Kevin Constant in the penalty area, before Totti got his marching orders.
Milan and Fiorentina are both away to lowly opponents next Sunday, with Milan traveling to Siena and Fiorentina to Pescara.
If they finish level on points, Fiorentina would take third place for having the better head-to-head record.
The games involving Palermo, Genoa and Torino all kicked off at lunchtime following a row sparked by the Giro d’Italia.
Local authorities in Florence ordered the Fiorentina match to start at 12:30pm to avoid clashing with the cycle race, which reached the city later in the afternoon, but Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini said his team would refuse to play unless the Genoa and Torino games were also brought forward, with Serie A eventually agreeing on Thursday afternoon.
Former Palermo forward Luca Toni scored the only goal just before halftime and Palermo’s hopes of a fightback ended as torrential rain in the second half left huge puddles on the pitch.
The Sicilians began and ended the season under Giuseppe Sannino, who was fired after three games and replaced by Gian Piero Gasparini. He lasted until early February when he was also sacked, with his replacement Alberto Malesani going after three games. Gasparini was rehired and fired after just two matches, paving the way for Sannino to return.