MILAN: Palermo’s Serie A relegation woes deepened in a trouble-hit 3-0 defeat to Lazio that saw the match stopped twice by the referee as rocket flares came dangerously close to hitting players.
German veteran Miroslav Klose claimed his 50th and 51st Serie A goals and Felipe Anderson put the icing on the cake as Lazio moved one place up to eighth, albeit 31 points behind leaders Juventus and 11 off the European qualifying places.
For teammate Antonio Candreva, it was a far more frightening affair.
The Italy midfielder quickly covered his ears in panic after narrowly escaping stepping on an exploding flare as angry Palermo fans vented their frustration amid fears of relegation.
Klose told Sky Sport afterwards: “This shouldn’t be happening in football… but you can perhaps understand their anger because they obviously don’t want to be relegated to Serie B.”
“Their team has a lot of young players, so it’s difficult [for them]. We have to think of the fans, because they buy their tickets.”
The Sicilians are battling to beat relegation to Italy’s second division and tensions had already boiled over prior to the fixture when rival fans clashed outside the stadium.
According to a report on Gazzetta dello Sport’s website, several Palermo fans stabbed a Lazio fan as he sat in a bar.
The incident sparked a mass brawl, with police called in to stop fans throwing missiles and flares at each other before arresting five local men.
Lazio took a 2-0 lead by the 15th minute thanks to a double from 2014 World Cup hero Klose, who spun a loose ball into the net on 10 minutes and nodded the rebound from Keita Balde’s cross home from close range five minutes later.
With Palermo struggling, it all got too much for the team’s hardline ultras.
They began lighting and throwing flares on to the pitch, with firecrackers setting explosions echoing throughout the stadium and prompting referee Andrea Gervasoni to halt the game for two minutes in the 24th minute.
In Italy, referees have the power to halt matches to allow stewards to restore order, and stop them altogether in extreme circumstances.
When flares began to land on the pitch again after the interval, one exploding metres away from Candreva as he chased a ball deep in Palermo territory in the 14th minute of the second half, Gervasoni stopped the match again.
Discussions were held with officials and players pitchside, before the proceedings resumed five minutes later.
Brazilian forward Anderson added to Palermo’s woes when he powered down the right to beat Stefano Sorrentino in the 72nd minute.
There were no further interruptions, but for the remainder Sorrentino was operating in a cloud of smoke generated from exploding crackers.
It was Lazio’s first win after appointing Simone Inzaghi, the brother of former AC Milan striker and coach Filippo Inzaghi, following the sacking of Stefano Pioli.
It will go down as a memorable start in Serie A for Inzaghi, but Klose added: “He hasn’t added anything extra with respect to Pioli. It was the same formation, and we all know each other.
“But let’s hope this gives us some momentum. For him (Inzaghi), it’s a good start.”
Palermo, who has sacked a number of coaches this season, dropped back into the relegation zone albeit on the same points (28) as fourth-from-bottom Carpi.