SPAL beat Parma in match delayed after minster's suspension call

AFP , Sunday 8 Mar 2020

Parma's Bruno Alves, right, controls the ball from Spal's Mattia Valoti during a Serie A soccer match between Parma and Spal, in Parma, Italy, Sunday, March 8, 2020 AP

Struggling SPAL gave their slim Serie A survival hopes a boost with a 1-0 win at Parma in a match that kicked off over an hour late following the Italian sports minister's call for top flight matches to be suspended due to coronavirus.

Andrea Petagna's 71st-minute penalty decided a contest that was overshadowed by minister Vincenzo Spadafora's Facebook post just minutes before the match was due to kick off, insisting that the season be put on hold.

Spadafora's demand caused panic, with the players waiting in the tunnel for the 1130 GMT kick off at an empty Stadio Ennio Tardini sent back to the dressing rooms as match officials decided the best course of action.

The teams didn't take the field for another 75 minutes, and the opening half was unsurprisingly flat and lacking in incident.

Gervinho went closest for the hosts after the break when he clipped the top of the crossbar. Petagna secured the points from the spot not long after.

A VAR check ruled that Mattia Valoti had been pushed in the back and Petagna, a 24-year-old Italy international, scored the winner.

There was confusion over whether the rest of the days matches would be played after Spadafora said that it made "no sense" to play matches while people in Italy were being asked "to make enormous sacrifices to prevent the spread of the virus".

Doctors 'real heroes'

Spadafora wrote his message after the president of Italian footballers' association (AIC) Damiano Tommasi had pushed for the season to be suspended, and Italian media reported on a draft strike motion from the AIC that was not acted upon.

Tommasi had tweeted on Sunday 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," Tommasi wrote.

However, the day's 1400 GMT matches did kick off and the huge title clash between Juventus and Inter Milan will take place at the Allianz Arena in Turin on Sunday evening.

Over 230 people have died from the COVID-19 in the last two weeks, with over 5,800 people diagnosed with the virus.

On Saturday, Italian media obtained copies of draft legislation that ordered the quarantining of the entire Lombardy region in northern Italy, the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Lombardy's capital Milan is Italy's economic heart, and the region is home to some 10 million people.

The government decree also covers parts of the Veneto region around Venice as well as Parma and Rimini in Emilia-Romagna.

The decree advised people in the quarantine zones to stay at home as much as possible, and it shuts down all night clubs as well as gyms and swimming pools.

Bars and restaurants will remain open but must ensure that everyone is seated at least a metre (three feet) apart.

It stresses that entry into and out of the new quarantine zones would only be allowed for "serious reasons".

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