Italian Cup semifinals this week come 100 days late
MILAN (AP) — Exactly 100 days after they were meant to be played, the second legs of the Italian Cup semifinals will finally take place.
The matches were scheduled for March 4 and 5 but were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Soccer — and indeed the whole of the country — is coming out. Serie A will resume on June 20 but the Italian Cup will be completed the week before rather than at the end of the season as has traditionally occurred.
That decision was made in part as the rights for the cup matches are owned by RAI state television, which will allow fans to watch three important matches free-to-air.
Here’s a look at where we left off more than three months ago:
Just as it seemed as though Milan was about to earn a precious win in the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stoppage-time penalty to help Juventus salvage a 1-1 draw.
Ronaldo had also won the penalty with a scissor-kick volley that hit Milan defender Davide Calabria on the arm from point-blank range.
Milan was left fuming as there had been an apparent foul on Zlatan Ibrahimović in the buildup.
“The play wouldn’t have continued if the referee had intervened then,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “I am happy with the performance but disappointed with the result.”
Milan defender Theo Hernández was sent off in that match and so will miss the second leg. Midfielder Samuel Castillejo is also suspended for the match as is Ibrahimović, although the Sweden international is recovering from injury.
There was less drama in the other semifinal where Fabián Ruiz’s 57th-minute goal helped Napoli beat Inter 1-0.
It was the first time Napoli had won the first leg of an Italian Cup semifinal since 1991.
Inter had lost only once to Italian opposition this season and was on top of Serie A, while Napoli was 11th. The Nerazzurri lost their next two league matches and slipped to third.
After not scoring in November, Ronaldo hit top form.
The Juventus forward’s goal in the first leg was his 17th in 12 successive Serie A and Italian Cup matches.
The Italian Cup matches were among the last in Italy to be played with fans.
Less than two weeks later four Serie A matches were suspended and, after more postponements and playing matches without fans, the season was halted on March 9.
There were nearly 73,000 spectators at San Siro for Milan’s match against Juventus — a record for an Italian Cup semifinal.
Almost 60,000 fans turned up at the stadium the following night for Inter-Napoli.
Both return legs will be without spectators and a maximum of 300 people in the stadiums, including both teams and officials.