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FOOTBALL

Inter stretch lead as Juve upset in Serie A

Inter Milan rolled back the years to stretch their lead at the top of Serie A on Wednesday on a night of upsets that saw champions Juventus held by Frosinone and Roma lose to Sampdoria.

Inter stretch lead as Juve upset in Serie A
Inter Milan's Felipe Melo celebrates after scoring a goal on September 23rd. Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP

Inter's blistering start to the season has left many commentators believing they have already stolen a march on four-time consecutive champions Juventus in the fight for this season's scudetto.  Only five matches into the campaign, those predictions look to be ringing true.

Brazilian Felipe Melo rose to head the game's only goal 11 minutes after the restart as Inter held on to claim their fifth consecutive win – the first time the Nerazzurri have achieved such a feat since the start of the 1966-67 season.

Inter owner and president Erick Thohir was at the San Siro and said: “I'm delighted…winning our opening five games is incredible, but we have many other matches to win so we'll go one step at a time.”

His thoughts were echoed by coach Roberto Mancini, who when asked about their status as title favourites quipped: “Maybe we are, until our next league match!”

Inter are away to high-flying Fiorentina this weekend, and Mancini added: “The first games of the season are all difficult, you can that by the fact other teams that should be fighting for the title are struggling.

“Teams get better as each game passes. It's one step at a time.” Mancini's men sit top with a three-point lead on Fiorentina, who saw Jakub Blaszczykowski and Nikola Kalinic score one apiece in 11, late second-half minutes to secure a 2-0 home win over outclassed Bologna.

Sassuolo are only a point further adrift in third, thanks to the Tuscans' shock 1-0 win at Palermo, courtesy of Sergio Floccari's stunning first-half effort for the visitors.

At the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio made amends for their 5-0 humiliation at Napoli on Sunday with a deserved 2-0 win over Genoa that saw Filip Djordjevic, with a diving header and Brazilian Felipe Anderson, with a superb, curling effort, wrap up the points for Stefano Pioli's men.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri rested a number of regulars, including goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon for the visit of Frosinone.    

But the Italian's tactics ultimately backfired after Leonardo Blanchard headed home from a corner in injury time to level Simone Zaza's strike minutes after the restart.

It gave the new boys their first point of the season, and coach Roberto Stellone was particularly happy: “For an ex-Torino players, it's a particularly pleasing result.”

Juventus had claimed only one point from their opening three games, their worst start to the campaign in several decades, before ending their drought at Genoa on Sunday. This latest setback has left last season's beaten Champions League finalists in tenth place, eight points adrift of Inter.   

Allegri hit out: “We can't be conceding corners to a team like Frosinone at this stage of the game.

“We just didn't manage this game well and paid the price for naive errors. We should have put the game beyond doubt well before then.”

Scudetto rivals Roma are faring slightly better, but coach Rudi Garcia was left ruing a massive defensive blunder as the Giallorossi looked to be heading for a well-deserved point at the Luigi Ferraris stadium.

Roma bossed the opening half and Sampdoria broke the deadlock against the run of play four minutes after the restart when Eder stepped up to fire a free kick just inside Morgan De Sanctis's near post.

Roma pulled level halfway through the second period when Mohamed Salah, unmarked inside the area, fired Miralem Pjanic's slide-rule pass into the roof of the net. Five minutes from time Kosta Manolas's attempt to clear Eder's drive across goal was comical, the ball splicing into the net.   

Roma's first defeat of the campaign left them in ninth place, seven points behind Inter and one behind AC Milan, who edged Udinese 3-2 on Tuesday.

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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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