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FOOTBALL

Juve tighten grip on Serie A top spot

Seydou Keita salvaged a point for ten-man Roma in a 1-1 draw with Juventus on Monday that saw the champions retain their nine-point lead at the top of Serie A.

Juve tighten grip on Serie A top spot
"The season is still long," said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri after the game. Photo: Marco Bertorello AFP

Carlos Tevez curled a free-kick over the Roma wall for his 15th league goal of the season that took him top of the Serie A scoring charts. But Malian veteran Keita equalized in the 78th minute as Roma set club record sixth straight home draw.

Roma welcomed the Bianconeri to the Stadio Olimpico desperate for the win that would maintain their unlikely title challenge.

Rudi Garcia's men had drawn six of their last seven league games but had never drawn six times consecutively at home, until Monday.

Under the circumstances, Roma – who have been ravaged by injuries to key players and only recently welcomed back Ivorian striker Gervinho from the Africa Cup of Nations – would be happy with a point.

Garcia told Sky Sport: his side had shown "character" to fight back into the game. "In games like this we know it can come down to dead ball situations and in fact that's how both goals were scored.

"We were down to ten men and a goal down so to come back into the game like we did in those circumstances showed character."

However Juventus remain unbeaten against Roma this season and with a nine-point advantage look to have one hand on what would be a fourth consecutive title.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri said his side had "taken a step forward," but told Sky Sport "The season is still long."

He added: "We played well up until 70 minutes and then we stopped playing. We need to keep our concentration for the entire game."

Roma started with influential midfielders Radja Nainggolan and Juan Iturbe on the bench while Juventus were without Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba – two of their most creative players – as they sought to make it two wins from two over the Giallorossi following a bad-tempered 3-2 win in Turin early in the campaign.

After an insipid first half without clear-cut chances, the hosts suffered a blow just after the hour when Vasilis Torosidis saw red for a second bookable offence.

In the absence of free kick specialist Pirlo, who is out for three weeks with a calf injury, Tevez stepped up shot over the Roma wall with Morgan De Sanctis rooted to the spot.

It sent the Argentine back to the top of the Serie A scorers ahead of compatriot Mauro Icardi, of Inter Milan, who has netted 14 times. Tevez almost had a second minutes later but Kostas Manolas's boot blocked the Argentine's half-volley to the right of goal.

Despite their disadvantage, Roma pressed for the equalizer and almost found the breakthrough when Claudio Marchisio caught the heel of Miralem Pjanic on the left flank.

Alessandro Florenzi, who came on for Adem Ljajic just after Torosidis's sending-off, crossed the ball to Manolas whose glancing header forced Gianluigi Buffon to tip the ball to safety down low.

Roma's insistance finally paid off. Juan Iturbe won a free kick to the right of the area after a solid challenge from Giorgio Chiellini. The Colombian's free kick found Keita at the back post and the Malian's header bounced over the line past the foot of Marchisio.

Iturbe should have done better minutes later when he was set up on the edge of the area but somehow bundled a mishit shot wide.

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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