Italy could suspend football season over virus concerns
Inter Milan and Juventus players compete in an empty stadium in their Serie A game on Sunday due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. (AFP)
Milan - Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora called for the football league season to be put on hold
Aaron Ramsey starred as Juventus beat title rivals Inter Milan 2-0 on Sunday to reclaim top spot in Serie A in a game played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier in the day, Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora called for the football league season to be put on hold.
His statement caused chaos at the early game between SPAL and Parma, with confused players sent back to the dressing rooms from the tunnel before eventually taking to the field 75 minutes after the scheduled kick-off.
Juventus' game against Inter in Turin did go ahead, although in an empty Allianz Stadium, with the defending champions taking a one-point lead over Lazio at the top of the table
"It's all a little strange and sad to play football in these conditions, sad for the fans and the players," Juventus director Fabio Paratici told Sky Sport Italia. "We trained in the empty stadium yesterday to get accustomed to the situation, but to be honest, I don't think we can ever really get used to it."
Reports in Italy late Sunday suggested that the Serie A season could even be suspended on Tuesday once government officials have met with league and player representatives.
"Our position is that Juventus will respect what the authorities indicate," added Paratici.
"We all understand that this is the situation and we must behave responsibly to help ensure it passes as quickly as possible."
Juve coach Maurizio Sarri told Sky Sport Italia that he "doesn't know what is the right thing to do" when it comes to the thorny question of cancelling matches.
"What I have to ask is whether it's right to take away two hours of enjoyment from those who are stuck indoors or if there really is a serious risk for the players and staff, I just don't know the answer to those questions," said the 61-year-old. On the game itself, he added: "This is an important victory, but there are still 12 games to go, so it's a long road ahead."
Antonio Conte's third-placed Inter are now nine points adrift, but with a game in hand on Juve and Lazio.
Douglas Costa went closest in a tight first half, but was denied by an excellent save from Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
The hosts broke the deadlock 10 minutes after the break, as Cristiano Ronaldo got to a low ball first inside the box, with it then falling kindly for Ramsey to sweep a low shot into the net from close range.
It was the Wales midfielder's fourth goal of the season after joining Juve from Arsenal last year. The 29-year-old created his side's second goal 12 minutes later, playing a neat one-two with Paulo Dybala, who fired home.