It has been a bad week for crowd trouble and hooliganism in Italy. After violence and rioting by Serbian fans caused the abandonment of the national side's Euro 2012 qualifier last Tuesday, the referee for Internazionale's game at Cagliari yesterday suspended play after only three minutes had elapsed following racist chants by the home fans towards the Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o.
Play was allowed to continue several minutes later once a public announcement had been made calling for Cagliari supporters to stop the jeers, and Eto'o silenced them completely by scoring the winner in the 39th minute. The striker took his Serie A tally to six goals from seven games this season and, like most of his recent efforts, his strike was a marvellous finish. Wesley Sneijder hooked the ball on and Eto'o twisted and turned before planting a left-foot shot in the corner of the net from the edge of the box.
The Italian football authorities, who have long struggled with racist fans, gave referees the right to suspend games in the event of such chanting after Mario Balotelli, now of Manchester City, was abused during Inter's match at Juventus two seasons ago.
In Spain, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol scored to help Barcelona to a 2-1 comeback victory at home to Valencia on Saturday, but it was Real Madrid who moved to the top of La Liga with a 4-1 win in Malaga.
Valencia started the day as the unbeaten league leaders and Pablo Hernandez's strike before the break had their hosts on the rack. The champions rose to the challenge in the second half, however, and fit-again midfielder Xavi set up both goals to put them second with 16 points from seven games, ahead of Valencia on goal difference.
Jose Mourinho's Real climbed one point above both of them after the late game, two goals each for Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo sweeping aside Malaga. Real had struggled for goals in the opening games of the season but, after thumping Deportivo la Coruña 6-1 in their previous match, they seem to have found their range.
Ronaldo had a hand in all four goals and crossed for Higuain to volley home the opener in the 30th minute. Malaga were combative and caused the visitors problems, but Mesut Ozil broke down the right and crossed low for Ronaldo to double the lead just before half-time. Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot in the 47th and, although Kris Stadsgaard pulled one back at a corner for Malaga, Real made it four when Ronaldo laid off for Higuain to bag the fourth in the 65th.
Zinedine Zidane, meanwhile, has said he will accept an offer from Mourinho to work more closely with the coach at the Bernabeu. "I will work with him [more regularly]," Zidane, a former Real player, said. "It suits me because I want to get more involved."