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 By Ben Gladwell

Lazio boss Pioli questions decision to halt Sparta game after racist chants

Stefano Pioli saw his Lazio side claim a 1-1 draw at home to Sparta Prague on Thursday.

Lazio coach Stefano Pioli says he cannot understand why his side's Europa League game at Sparta Prague had to be halted due to racist chants, as the Serie A club now face further sanctions.

Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco halted play for around a minute in the first half and called for an announcement to be made over the public address system to tell Lazio fans to stop making racist chants each time Sparta full-back Costa touched the ball.

Lazio, who were recently punished with a partial stadium closure after fans abused Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly in a Seie A game, could face another sanction when UEFA's disciplinary panel review the incidents.

The Biancocelesti were ordered to play two Europa League home games against Stuttgart and Fenerbahce behind closed doors in 2013, also due to racist chanting, and they were punished again just months later -- for the third time in the same year -- for more misbehaviour during the win over Legia Warsaw.

However, Pioli believes the latest incident could have been avoided if Costa had not spoken to the referee, claiming that the Sparta defender should have been focused on his job rather than listening to the crowd.

"It was Costa who complained about the situation," Pioli said. "Whenever I am on the field, I don't feel the cold or the heat because I'm so focused on the match. I didn't hear anything. The referee told me it was all under control and I was a bit surprised.

"I didn't see any of our players have to go over to placate our fans either."

Lazio drew the game 1-1 but, despite scoring an away goal, they are remaining cautious about the return leg at the Stadio Olimpico next week.

"There's no such thing as an easy game in Europe and Sparta are going to make things difficult for us," goal-scorer Marco Parolo said. "We've got to treat it like the tie's still 0-0 and not make any calculations, otherwise we're going to suffer.

"If we play the way we know how to then we will go through, but the tie's certainly not downhill from here."

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