Inter beats Ludogorets 2-1 in eerily empty stadium
MILAN (AP) — The voices of the players and both coaches could clearly be heard at an empty San Siro as Inter Milan beat Ludogorets 2-1 on Thursday to advance into the last 16 of the Europa League. Cristiano Biraghi and Romelu Lukaku scored for Inter after Cauly had given Ludogorets a surprise lead. Inter progressed 4-1 on aggregate.
No fans were allowed into the stadium as a precaution as authorities try to contain a spreading virus that has made northern Italy the focal point of the outbreak in Europe. The epicenter of the outbreak is in the Lombardy region, and Milan is its capital.
Journalists were also barred from the stadium, apart from broadcast rights holders. “I’ve experienced games without any fans allowed in when I was Italy coach and it’s a strange atmosphere which isn’t easy because it feels more like a training session,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “But the boys had the right approach and even after conceding we reacted immediately.”
The Ludogorets team had arrived at Milan’s Malpensa airport on Wednesday wearing protective face masks and gloves. Most wore the protective gear as they entered the stadium on Thursday as well. Italy has reported a total of 650 cases of the new coronavirus, up from 400 on Wednesday evening and three a week ago. Three more people with the virus died in 24 hours, bringing Italy's toll to 15.
Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two hardest hit regions and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo'Euganeo. Four Serie A matches scheduled for last weekend were postponed. Five games this weekend will be played in empty stadiums, including the top-of-the-table clash between Juventus and Inter Milan.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports