Simone Zaza’s strike was cancelled out by a penalty, as Cagliari held Sassuolo to dent their hopes of avoiding the drop.
It was a relegation six-pointer at the Mapei Stadium, as Sassuolo were in penultimate place and hoping to build on last week’s shock 2-0 win away to Atalanta. The Sardinians made their debut under new Coach Ivo Pulga, having sacked Diego Lopez.
Both sides missed numerous key players, including Paolo Cannavaro, Matteo Brighi, Luca Marrone, Paolo Bianco, Nene, Matias Vecino, Mauricio Pinilla, Albin Ekdal and Adryan.
Daniele Conti drilled just wide from the edge of the box on a Victor Ibarbo assist, while Domenico Berardi’s free kick was smothered.
Berardi dribbled into the penalty area on 22 minutes, but was rightly booked for simulation as he went down. He also got past Nicola Murru only to fire straight at the goalkeeper.
Berardi’s free kick was floated into the box and Ibarbo risked an own goal with his header off target to anticipate Simone Zaza, then Berardi blasted over from the resulting corner.
It was mainly Sassuolo and the pressure paid off when Zaza burst between centre-backs on a Nicola Sansone through ball and kept his cool to place the finish under the bar. It was the 22-year-old’s seventh Serie A goal of the season and the ideal way to celebrate his call-up for Italy tests this week.
The second half had barely started when Ibarbo tried to dribble round Luca Antei and was tripped for a penalty. Agim Ibraimi stepped up and converted with power past Gianluca Pegolo, a relief as the Sardinians had already missed three penalties this season.
Antonio Floro Flores replaced a disappointing Berardi and had a great chance, spinning on the spot to drill just wide from 12 yards.
Simone Missiroli fired off target, as did Zaza with a volley that he kept down but turned wide. Sansone had a great scoring opportunity for the hosts when he sprung the offside trap from a Murru error, but drew out the goalkeeper only to strike the ball across the face of goal.
Cagliari lost Daniele Dessena to a thigh problem in stoppages, but held on for the precious point. In fact, Ibarbo almost won it for them at the death, but his shot skimmed the woodwork.