'Exceptional courage': Cancer-stricken Mihajlovic on bench but Bologna held by Verona

August 26, 2019 - 11:46

A cap on his head and wearing a Bologna shirt, coach Sinisa Mihajlovic courageously joined his players for their Serie A opener in Verona on Sunday despite undergoing treatment for leukaemia.


Serb Sinisa Mihajlovic was diagnosed with "acute leukaemia" six weeks ago. — AFP Photo

MILAN — A cap on his head and wearing a Bologna shirt, coach Sinisa Mihajlovic courageously joined his players for their Serie A opener in Verona on Sunday despite undergoing treatment for leukaemia.

It was a personal victory for the Serb, but the match ended 1-1 with Bologna settling for a point despite promoted Verona finishing the match with 10 men.

Mihajlovic was diagnosed with "acute leukaemia" six weeks ago but the 50-year-old has continued working as Bologna coach.

His presence at the game in Verona has come as a surprise as he has been hospitalised in Bologna for the past month undergoing treatment.

It had initially been reported he was set to follow the match from a special box in the stands in Verona.

But when all the players took the pitch, Mihajlovic came in, without the mask covering his mouth he had been wearing in the afternoon when he left the hospital.

His face was gaunt and thinner following weeks of treatment.

"We were shocked, we didn't expect it, even though he had promised us," midfielder Andrea Poli told sports broadcaster DAZN.

"We were impressed, but we are happy that he is here with us, he shows an exceptional courage. We were excited when he arrived at the hotel."

"Warriors recognise each other from afar. My love," his wife Arianna Rapaccioni wrote on social media.

Nicola Sansone converted a penalty for Bologna after 15 minutes just after Verona defender Pawel Dawidowicz was sent off.

But a Miguel Veloso free kick put 10-man Verona, returning to Serie A after a one-year absence, back level after 37 minutes.

AC Milan stumbled at the first hurdle with a 1-0 loss at Udinese with fellow European hopefuls Roma held 3-3 at Genoa.

Both teams have changed coaches during the summer with Marco Giampaolo replacing Gennaro Gattuso on the Milan bench and Roma coached by Paulo Fonseca. 

The seven-time European champions were lacking inspiration in Udine, against a home side who finished 12th last term after fighting to avoid relegation.

Milan's forward line of Krzysztof Piatek -- third top scorer in Serie A last season -- Brazilian Suso and Spaniard Samu Castillejo, failed to muster a single shot on target.

The breakthrough came on 72 minutes when new Brazilian signing Rodrigo Becao connected with a Rodrigo De Paul corner to head past Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Milan goal.

In Rome, Genoa fought back despite Cengiz Under scoring after just six minutes for the hosts with Edin Dzeko and a superb Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick also giving Roma the advantage.

Striker Andrea Pinamonti pulled Genoa level with a Domenico Criscito penalty and a Christian Kouame goal on 70 minutes giving the visitors a point. 

City rivals Lazio came away 3-0 winners from Sampdoria thanks to a Ciro Immobile double in either half, bringing his tally to 101 goals in Serie A.

Atalanta -- in the Champions League after finishing third last season -- won 3-2 at SPAL with Luis Muriel scoring a second-half brace.

Simone Zaza also bagged a brace for Torino in a 2-1 win over Torino, who bounced back from their Europa League defeat at home to Wolves.

Promoted Brescia, playing without new signing Mario Balotelli who is sitting out a ban, earned a 1-0 win at Cagliari thanks to an Alfredo Donnarumma penalty on 54 minutes.

Champions Juventus and second-placed Napoli both got off to winning starts on Saturday.

Juventus beat Parma 1-0 without coach Maurizio Sarri who is recovering from pneumonia, with Napoli edging a seven-goal thriller at Fiorentina 4-3.

Inter Milan, fourth last season, host promoted Lecce on Monday. — AFP