Wed, Nov 27, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Nine-man Cagliari go fourth after Lecce stalemate

AFP, MILAN, Italy

US Lecce’s Marco Calderoni celebrates scoring against Cagliari in their Serie A match at the Stadio Ettore Giardiniero - Via del Mare in Lecce, Italy, on Monday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Cagliari on Monday retook fourth spot in Serie A, despite throwing away a two-goal lead in a thrilling finale to their 2-2 draw at US Lecce which saw three players sent off.

Captain Radja Nianggolan had put Cagliari two up on 67 minutes after Joao Pedro opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the first half of a game which had been rescheduled from Sunday due to heavy rain in the Puglia region of southern Italy.

However, defender Fabrizio Cacciatore was shown a straight red card for clearing a shot off the goal-line with his hands and Gianluca Lapadula pulled a goal back for the hosts from the subsequent penalty.

Lapadula was then sent off almost immediately afterward as he tried to take the ball back to the center circle, clashing with Cagliari goalkeeper Robin Olsen after he booted the ball away.

Olsen was also given an early bath in the melee to leave Cagliari with nine men and four minutes to play.

Lecce took advantage via Marco Calderoni, who flashed home an equalizer past substitute goalkeeper Rafael in stoppage-time.

The draw means Cagliari missed the chance to move third ahead of SS Lazio, but are just one point behind and level on points with AS Roma.

Lecce are 17th, two points above the relegation zone.

BALOTELLI RACE ROW

Brescia president Massimo Cellino came under fire on Monday after he described Mario Balotelli’s difficult situation at the promoted Serie A club as “black.”

Balotelli was dropped for Brescia’s 3-0 defeat at AS Roma on Sunday after clashing with new club coach Fabio Grosso for his lack of commitment in training the previous week.

“What can I say? That he’s black and he’s working to whiten himself, but he has great difficulties in this,” Cellino said on the sidelines of a Lega Serie A assembly.

Cellino was making a play on the Italian words nero, which means “black” or “gloomy,” and schiarirsi, to “lighten up” or “clear up.”

Brescia later said in a statement that Cellino’s comments were “obviously a paradoxical joke, clearly misunderstood, made in an attempt to defuse excessive media exposure and intended to protect the player himself.”

Balotelli, who was born in Sicily, but adopted and raised just outside Brescia, agreed a three-year deal with the Serie B champions after being released by Olympique de Marseille in June last year.

However, it has been a difficult start to the campaign for the 29-year-old with two goals scored in seven matches.

Earlier this month, the former Inter, Manchester City and Liverpool striker was also targeted by racist chanting during a Serie A defeat at Hellas Verona, where he threatened to walk off the pitch.

Cellino said that the striker is not to blame if the team are bottom of the table fighting for survival.

“We cannot think that a player alone will save the squad, that would be wrong for the team,” Cellino said. “I signed him because he’s 1.9m, he’s an animal and he is still of an age to give something on the football pitch, not on social media, but he cannot be made the scapegoat for the difficult situation in Brescia. If we continue to talk about Balotelli, we hurt him and we hurt ourselves.”

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