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Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

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ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.

Video: Lazio score twice in stoppage-time to win

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Lazio fans learned the meaning of “it ain’t over ’till it’s over” on Monday.

Facing a second-straight defeat in all competitions, and a tough loss a week ahead of a trip to Juventus, Lazio came back from one goal down with two stoppage-time strikes to beat Cagliari, 2-1, in Serie A action.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Luis Alberto blasted a strike into the turf off a scramble in the box to tie the game at 1-1 in the 93rd minute, and then Felipe Caicedo headed home off a terrific cross from Jony to give Lazio the improbable win. Lazio pushed everything forward and it was too much for Cagliari to take in the end.

With the win, Lazio move into third place, four points ahead of arch rival Roma and just three points behind league-leaders Inter and Juventus.

Lecce completes comeback in wild finish over Cagliari

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When Radja Nainggolan put Cagliari 2-0 up over Lecce, it seemed the newly-promoted side was sunk at home in an otherwise unremarkable Serie A match.

Then the last 10 minutes happened.

Three players were sent off and two goals were scored as the home side completed a wild comeback and earned a critical point in the relegation battle. Gianluca Lapadula struck from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute, and Marco Calderoni cropped up a minute into stoppage time to secure the draw.

It wasn’t just goals, however, that made the end of the match so exhilarating. Fabrizio Cacciatore and Robin Olsen were both shown straight red cards in the 81st and 85th minute respectively, which Cagliari down to nine men, while Lapadula was given an early shower soon after.

Cacciatore’s red came as he kept out an Andrea La Mantia header with his arm, reaching out to intentionally save the shot – which would have been lauded as the save of the match had he actually, you know, been the goalkeeper. The final two were particularly explosive, with Olsen sent off for shoving Lapadula to the ground immediately after the penalty was scored, while Lapadula was given yellow for his role in the scuffle, his second of the match.

Still, Lecce’s man advantage was critical in the final goal as Calderoni took a feed from Panagiotis Tachtsidis standing straight atop the box, and his through ball was met with a vicious low left-footed strike from Calderoni, leaving Cagliari goalkeeper Rafael late to react. The moment came on a mis-match as two defenders were there to cover three attackers and Calderoni made the most of the situation.

The point sees Lecce just outside the relegation area, in 17th on 11 points, one above Genoa and two on top of SPAL.

VIDEO: Romelu Lukaku responds to racist abuse at Cagliari

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Romelu Lukaku has released a statement after he was subjected to racist abuse by so-called soccer fans at Cagliari.

Lukaku, 26, scored a penalty kick as Inter Milan won 2-1 on Sunday and remained top of the Serie A table.

Videos have emerged of fans directing monkey chants at Lukaku from behind the goal where he scored.

Cagliari fans previously hurled racist abuse at former Juventus striker Moise Kean, and following on from the racist abuse of Tammy Abraham, Paul Pogba and Kurt Zouma on social media, this horrendous situation continues.

As for Lukaku, the Belgium national team star had the following to say in a social media post on Monday as he bravely addressed the situation head on.

“Many players in the last month have suffered from racial abuse. I did yesterday too. Football is a game to be enjoyed be everyone and we shouldn’t accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame. I hope the football federations all over the world react strongly on all cases of discrimination.

“Social media platforms need to work better as well with football clubs because everyday you see at least a racist comment under a post of a person of color. We’ve been saying it for years and still no action. Ladies and gentleman, it is 2019. Instead of going forward we’re going backwards and I think as players we need to unify and make a statement on this matter to keep this game clean and enjoyable for everyone.”