ROME: Lazio moved within five points of leaders Juventus in Italy’s Serie A after a 2-1 win over a Cagliari side who had coach Ivo Pulga and two of his players – goalkeeper Michael Agazzi and substitute Andrea Cossu – sent off.
The match generated another incident of racist chanting directed – briefly – at Cagliari player Victor Ibarbo from a small section of Lazio’s notorious Curva Nord fans.
The chants were almost drowned out by whistles from the rest of the Olympic Stadium but it led to both captains being told the match could be suspended if the abuse continued.
On Thursday Milan walked off during a friendly away to Patria after their black players were targeted for racist abuse by hooligans in Busto Arsizio.
President Claudio Lotito said: “Lazio are always called a racist club which is not true. We have lots of non-white players. We can’t control the actions of individual fans. Coming to these sorts of judgements you risk criminalising thousands of fans for the actions of a few.
“Since I became president certain modes of behaviour that were there before are no longer there. We are tough on the fans when they behave in a way that is against the law but today I can say the majority of the fans behaved themselves.”
Lazio were fined by UEFA last autumn for racist abuse during their Europa League tie against Tottenham.
Second-placed Lazio have now gone eight league games unbeaten and are on 39 points, four clear of Fiorentina in third. Cagliari remain a point above the relegation zone in 17th position after suffering their sixth straight defeat in Serie A.
In France Albert Emon endured a nightmare debut as Ajaccio coach when the top division strugglers lost 3-2 on penalties to third division Rouen in the cup .
Reims were another top-flight team dumped out when they lost 1-0 at amateurs Plabennec who also upset Ligue 1 sides Nice and Nancy on their way to the last 16 in 2010.
Ajaccio, fifth from bottom in the league, were shorn of five players on international duty ahead of this month’s African Nations Cup while striker Adrian Mutu was dropped.
Former Olympique Marseille coach Emon, who replaced the sacked Alex Dupont on Dec. 23, watched his new side struggle throughout and they needed an 89th-minute equaliser from Wilfried Zahibo to make it 1-1 and set up extra-time.
There were no more goals in the additional half hour and Ajaccio were then thwarted by Rouen goalkeeper Theo Defourny as he saved three penalties in the shootout.
In Spain new Deportivo La Coruna coach Domingos Paciencia made a winning start with a surprise 1-0 home victory over Champions League contenders Malaga. The former Braga and Sporting boss replaced Jose Luis Oltra at the beginning of the week, taking over a side bottom of the table, and guided them to only their third win in 20 games in all competitions this season.
Deportivo, who are on the brink of entering administration, looked tighter in defence and sharper breaking forward and struck through Pizzi in the 57th minute.
The Portuguese forward pounced on a weak back pass, rounded a defender in the area and thumped a shot inside the near post to help his side climb to second from bottom.
Malaga, who have qualified for the Champions League last 16 and beat Real Madrid 3-2 in their last outing, stayed fourth with 31 points from 18 games, missing out on the chance to climb above the champions into third.
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