Lazio turn Sarri wipeout into emojis

Lazio turned Maurizio Sarri’s rather eventful Coppa Italia game against Udinese into a story told via emojis, including the moment he was sent flying with his glasses and cigarette stub.

The coach was in the wrong place at the wrong time when Ignacio Pussetto was barged over at the touchline, clattering the former Napoli, Chelsea and Juventus boss right in the face.

Video: Sarri wiped out during Lazio-Udinese

Sarri got back on his feet and hugged the Udinese player before waving to the crowd and getting back to sucking on a cigarette stub.

He’s not allowed to smoke on the touchline in Italy, so he sucks on the nicotine in a stub for the duration of the match.

Salernitana perilously close to COVID protocol cut-off point against Napoli

Under the new COVID protocol, Salernitana could ask to postpone this weekend’s game with Napoli if one more player tests positive.

The new protocol was confirmed by the Government, Lega Serie A, FIGC and local health authorities (ASL) last night.

It means a club can request the postponement of a fixture if 35 per cent of the squad tests positive for COVID-19.

The quota was set based on a 25-man squad, so nine players positive at any one time can activate the request to delay the game.

Salernitana announced this afternoon that another player has tested positive, taking the current total to eight.

That is just one shy of the cut-off point, so local health authorities are keeping a close eye on the situation in case of any further developments.

Salernitana were yesterday docked one point and given an automatic 3-0 defeat for the game they did not play against Udinese on December 21.

They argued that the squad was ordered into quarantine by the ASL, but the Disciplinary Commission pored through emails and insisted Salernitana had actively encouraged the local health authorities to intervene.

Empoli Stadio Castellani named worst arena in Europe

The Stadio Castellani in Empoli has been named the worst stadium in Europe in a survey, which also places five Italian arenas among the 15 lowest-scoring venues.

The survey was conducted by Money.co.uk using various review sites like Tripadvisor, Google and Football Ground Map to calculate the findings.

It was bad news overall for Serie A stadiums, which have been for years been bogged down in red tape to prevent an overhaul.

Empoli’s Stadio Carlo Castellani had the unfortunate honour of being named the worst stadium in Europe with an average score of 2.9 out of five.

It was followed in the worst stakes by Celta Vigo’s Balaidos Stadium, the Stadion Maksimir of Dinamo Zagreb, the King Badouin Stadium in Belgium and the Coliseum Alfonso Perez of Getafe.

Venezia’s Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, which can only be reached by boat, came in joint fifth with an average 3.43 out of five score.

There are five Italian arenas in the top 10, as the Stadio Bentegodi used by Verona comes in seventh, with Fioentina’s Stadio Franchi in 11th and the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples in 15th.

Nedim Bajrami

Dybala and Lautaro Martinez among Argentina call-ups

Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martinez, Joaquin Correa, Nicolas Gonzalez and Juan Musso are among the Serie A players called up for Argentina in World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Colombia.

The list was announced this afternoon by coach Lionel Scaloni, who does not bring along Lionel Messi, as the Paris Saint-Germain star has just recovered from COVID-19.

Serie A is heavily represented with seven players involved in the group for these crucial matches.

They include Fiorentina pair Lucas Martinez Quarta and Nicolas Gonzalez, Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso and Udinese defender Nahuel Molina.

Inter pair of forwards Lautaro Martinez and Tucu Correa have been called up, while Dybala returns to international duty after a long lay-off.

The Juventus striker has been struggling with injury throughout the season and had consequently dropped down the pecking order for the Seleccion too.

Dybala has two goals in 31 senior caps for Argentina, but made only two appearances since November 2019.

Serie A COVID protocol finalised, no vaccine mandate

The official Italian football COVID-19 protocol has been published, with nine players testing positive the cut-off point for a quarantine and no vaccine mandate.

The protocol has been agreed by the sporting authorities, the local health authorities (ASL) and the Government.

It means there should no longer be any dangerous cross-over of responsibility with the ASL over-ruling the football protocol.

The ASL can intervene to order a group into quarantine only if at least 35 per cent of the players have tested positive for COVID-19.

Because the Serie A squads are limited to 25 players, it has been decided that means nine players rather than eight.

Those who do test positive will be isolated and monitored.

The important development is that those considered high-risk close contacts must have a daily antigen test for at least five days and wear a FFP2 level mask at all times other than when taking part in the sporting activity.

It was believed the vaccination status would create different treatment, but that has now been removed from the protocol.

That means even those who have not been vaccinated will be given the same five-day testing process if they are close contacts.

All players must provide a negative antigen test, taken four hours before the match.

There had been fears a Government decree would mean unvaccinated players could not even enter the locker room after January 10 and therefore be excluded from taking part, but that has been scrapped.

It is hoped Serie A should have enough coverage, as 98 per cent of players were fully vaccinated in October 2021 and are having booster shots.

Cioffi and Udinese ‘annoyed’ by Coppa Italia exit to Lazio

Coach Gabriele Cioffi believes Udinese could not have done any more in their extra time Coppa Italia defeat to Lazio. ‘It’s annoying that we didn’t go through.’

Both sides had chances at the Stadio Olimpico before the decisive moment in extra time, when Ciro Immobile ran onto a Danilo Cataldi ball over the top and lobbed the goalkeeper.

That 1-0 result means Lazio will face Milan in the quarter-final next month, while Udinese crash out.

Coppa Italia | Lazio 1-0 Udinese (aet): Immobile lob sets up Milan clash

“It might seem strange, but I think we did everything possible to win this game,” said Cioffi in his press conference.

“I saw a team that was tough, hungry, with a winning mentality. The only thing we didn’t have was the result. I am proud of what I saw on that pitch and it’s annoying that we didn’t go through.”

Lazio needed to get their top star Immobile off the bench to secure the victory with a moment of real class.

“Even though we worked really hard, we seemed a little rusty in front of goal. It’s been a difficult period with so many absentees, let’s not forget that.”

Sarri admires Lazio spirit: ‘I got up first!’

Maurizio Sarri saw the right ‘spirit’ from Lazio to beat Udinese in extra time in the Coppa Italia and joked after he was sent flying. ‘I was the one who got back up first.’

It was still 0-0 after 90 minutes, so only in extra time could the Aquile seal victory with a lob from substitute Ciro Immobile on Danilo Cataldi’s assist.

Coppa Italia | Lazio 1-0 Udinese (aet): Immobile lob sets up Milan clash

It means they will face Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-final next month.

“The team is improving, both in terms of spirit and quality, as tonight everyone got involved with the spirit of sacrifice, including the youth team players on the bench,” said Sarri in his press conference.

There was a curious moment in extra time when the coach found himself too close to the action and accidentally sent flying by Ignacio Pussetto.

“It was a good test of my current condition! I’d like to point out that I was the one who got back up first,” smiled Sarri.

Mattia Zaccagni wasn’t so fortunate, going off at half-time after accidentally getting crushed during a collision.

“Zaccagni has a sprained ankle. Pedro has a soleus issue and it’s not serious.”

The January transfer window is open, but Sarri is well aware that it’ll be a long wait for reinforcements.

“The club is very careful and will never transform the squad in one transfer session. I knew that before I arrived. The important thing is that a club is ready mentally to accompany us in our gradual growth.”

Coppa Italia | Lazio 1-0 Udinese (aet): Immobile lob sets up Milan clash

Lazio will face Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-final, but needed extra time and a Ciro Immobile lob to get the better of Udinese.

These sides drew 4-4 when they met in Serie A last month, so much was expected from this Coppa clash, even if many of the players had changed.

Udinese threatened early on, a free kick only grazing the boot of Isaac Success in front of goal, while Lazio went even closer from a set play with Vedat Muriqi’s header parried.

Rodrigo Becao made a desperate block to prevent Muriqi tapping in the Felipe Anderson cross and another header was smothered.

Mattia Zaccagni went off at half-time after Success accidentally fell on him, seemingly causing a bad ankle sprain.

Success forced a save from Pepe Reina after shrugging off Adam Marusic, then an impressive Lazar Samardzic curler was deflected inches past the far post.

Udinese started to grow into the game, so Lazio unleashed top scorer Ciro Immobile off the bench for the final 20 minutes.

Reina used his legs to deny Beto at the near stick, while Raul Moro bent a finish wide for the hosts.

There was a huge double chance for Lazio at the 87th minute, as first Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s strike was parried by the goalkeeper, then Destiny Udogie made a desperate block on the Moro follow-up.

With the last kick of normal time, Milinkovic-Savic’s header from a corner whistled wide, so they had to go to extra time.

Udinese almost broke through when Tolgay Arslan’s free kick was deflected to clip the outside of the near post.

There was a bizarre moment when Ignacio Pussetto accidentally collided heavily with Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri on the touchline and wiped him out, but the pair hugged afterwards and smiled.

Immobile finally broke through when he ran onto a Danilo Cataldi floated ball over the top, took one touch to control and with the second flicked it over the goalkeeper for a perfect lob.

Beto fought back immediately, his header not far wide at all, and nobody was able to take advantage of a Reina error on Samardzic ball into the box.

Lazio 1-0 Udinese aet

Immobile 106 (L)

Video: Sarri wiped out during Lazio-Udinese

Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri was a little too close to the action when accidentally wiped out by Udinese player Ignacio Pussetto during tonight’s Coppa Italia tie.

It had gone to extra time at the Stadio Olimpico at 0-0 when Manuel Lazzari barged Pussetto at the touchline.

Unfortunately for Sarri, he was right next to the pair and got a face-full of Pussetto’s shoulder, sending his glasses and nicotine aid flying.

Sarri and Pussetto made up afterwards with a smile and a hug, realising it was an accident, the coach also waving to the Lazio fans who sang his name.