Milinkovic-Savic saves Lazio as Covid chaos hangs over Serie A matches


Milan (AFP) – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic earned Lazio a point with his last-gasp leveller in Thursday’s 3-3 draw with Empoli, while a coronavirus cloud hangs over Serie A after Inter Milan’s match at Bologna was abandoned.

Serb Milinkovic-Savic nodded home his second of the game in the 93rd minute of a thrilling match at the Stadio Olimpico to snatch a draw for the hosts which leaves them in eighth, six points from the Champions League places.

“We’ve dropped two big points here, it’s a shame as we gave everything but unfortunately it’s not finished as we would have liked,” the 26-year-old told DAZN.

“We want to finish in the top four. It’s going to be hard as we are some way away but there are still lots of matches to play.”

Maurizio Sarri’s side are four points and one place ahead of promoted Empoli, who thought they were set to come away with another big away win after victories at Juventus and Napoli this season.

An enthralling clash began with Empoli flying into a two-goal lead with less than eight minutes on the clock through Nedim Bajrami’s penalty and a neat first-time finish from Szymon Zurkowski.

Ciro Immobile then halved the home side’s deficit when he glanced home Milinkovic-Savic’s cross in the 14th minute.

The hosts looked ready to roll on to victory when Milinkovic-Savic levelled the scores with a sumptuous volley 20 minutes after the break, but Federico Di Francesco stunned the home fans again when he tapped home Riccardo Marchizza’s low cross nine minutes later after being left completely unmarked.

Patric then had an equaliser ruled out for handball following a lengthy VAR check before Guglielmo Vicario pushed out Immobile’s late penalty, but Milinkovic-Savic saved Lazio’s blushes when he met Mattia Zaccagni’s cross to nick a point.

Earlier second-half strikes from Alessandro Deiola and Leonardo Pavoletti ended Cagliari’s 11-match run without a win in a 2-1 triumph at Sampdoria.

Walter Mazzarri’s side stay in the bottom three after their second win of the season but are now three points behind Spezia, who are just outside the relegation zone and lost 2-1 to Verona thanks to a Gianluca Caprari brace.

– Covid chaos –

The strange spectacle of a team turning up for a match they knew would not take place returned to Serie A after local health authorities (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, or ASL) barred Bologna from hosting league leaders Inter.

Thursday’s matches involving Torino, Salernitana and Udinese will suffer the same fate following decisions from ASLs which also put their weekend fixtures at risk.

The big match of the weekend between Juventus and Napoli will be played in Turin this evening despite the away side being battered by Covid cases, including to coach Luciano Spalletti.

They suffered the strange fate of losing Piotr Zielinski, Amir Rrahmani and Stanislav Lobotka to isolation orders after the trio were allowed to travel north with the rest of the squad despite being contact cases and not having had their vaccine booster.

As Inter’s players performed a warm-up at the Stadio Dall’Ara, the champions’ sporting director Giuseppe Marotta spoke to DAZN about the situation, bemoaning a “lack of clarity” in decision making.

“We need to limit the role of the ASLs because they make their decisions autonomously, creating a huge amount of confusion,” he said.

“When we allow the ASLs to decide autonomously we end up with different decisions from one region to the next… Verona are going to play at Spezia despite having more Covid cases (10 among players and coaching staff) than Bologna and Inter.”

A new Serie A protocol was then released which insisted on teams playing matches as long as they had 13 players (including one goalkeeper) available who were born before December 31 2003, otherwise they would be handed a 3-0 defeat and be docked a point.

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