Inter Milan, defending champion and current mid-season leader, kicked off this strange day of recovery with a « ghost match » at midday on the Bologna lawn.
The Nerazzurri warmed up but never came out of the locker room, for lack of an opponent: Bologna, affected by eight cases of Covid-19, announced on Wednesday that the local health authorities had prohibited its players from “participating in official sporting events for at least five days.
Three other clubs – Salernitana, Torino and Udinese – were also blocked by their local authorities and the opponents of the first two (Venice and Atalanta) had to wait in vain for them in the afternoon, waiting for Fiorentina (expected host of Udinese) in the evening.
Faithful to a line established last season, the Italian League had refused to postpone upstream and maintained the program for the 20th day as it was. It will be up to sporting justice, after the fact, to inflict a defeat on the green carpet on the forfeited teams or to reschedule the matches.
This incredible situation of « ghost matches » could happen again on Sunday, since the measures applied against Bologna, Torino and Udinese will still be relevant.
We are witnessing a confusing situation
Hence the desire of the actors of Italian football to clarify the rules.
“We are witnessing a confusing situation. The local health authorities decide independently and we see that Verona is going to La Spezia with ten positive players and other teams are stuck with fewer positive cases”, regretted Giuseppe Marotta, managing director of Inter Milan.
A new protocol
The Italian League has provided a first response by adopting a new protocol to force teams to play, from the moment they have twelve field players and a goalkeeper, drawing on their young people if necessary.
But at this stage, the decisions of the local health authorities are essential, under a case law born on the occasion of the cancellation of a Juventus-Naples in 2020. The Neapolitans had been sanctioned with a lost match for not to have moved, before the match is finally replayed.
This Thursday, the Neapolitans are this time in Turin to face Juve. But the team of Luciano Spalletti (himself positive and stayed at home) is further reduced with five positive players.
But the incredible situation in Italy does not stop there. The Neapolitans took with them … three players who were supposed to be in quarantine: Zielenski, Rrahmani, Lobotka.
With the three players left for the African Cup of Nations, Naples (3rd) can still rely on other usual holders (Ospina, Di Lorenzo, Insigne, Mertens) against the « Old Lady » (5th) from 8:45 p.m. With the threat of seeing Juve return to just two points if successful.
Milan, dolphin four points behind Inter, was also deprived of five players who tested positive against Roma (6th), in addition to his three African internationals called up for the CAN. Stefano Pioli had to completely recompose his defense.
For this shock, San Siro was only half full: this day marks a return to a maximum gauge of 50% in the stadiums, against 75% at the end of 2021, a measure aimed at combating the resurgence of contagions in the peninsula.
But the results do not depend on the cases of Covid and AC Milan managed to win against Roma in particular thanks to a goal from the penalty spot by Olivier Giroud (3-1) in the first minutes (1 -0, 8th). Shortly after the quarter of an hour of play, the Brazilian Junior Messias scored the break goal (2-0, 17th) before Rafael Leao completed the Roman hopes (3-1, 82nd).
For its part, Hellas Verona, despite its ten positive players, won at La Spezia (2-1) while Lazio Rome, exempt from cases, started their year with a disappointing draw at home against the ‘Empoli (3-3).