Adrian Mutu’s Cesena caused a huge upset by conquering 10-man Palermo, who until now had won all six of their games in Sicily.
The Sicilians are a Jekyll and Hyde team, hoping to maintain their 100 per cent record on home turf to make up for a disastrous away run. They welcomed a Cesena side that had won two on the trot before last week’s hard-fought defeat to Juventus.
Giulio Migliaccio was suspended for Palermo, joining Igor Budan, Eran Zahavi and Abel Hernandez in the stands. The Sea Horses missed Gianluca Comotto, Jorge Martinez, Giuseppe Colucci, Raphael Martinho, Lauro and banned goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli.
Benussi smothered an Adrian Mutu snapshot in the opening minutes, then the goalkeeper performed a spectacular one-handed save to deny the Romanian’s half-volley from the edge of the box.
Moments later Mutu went on the counter and spread the play for Eder, whose angled drive flashed across the face of goal, fingertipped inches past the far post by Benussi. Brazilian Eder fired another effort wide, as Palermo were very sluggish.
The Rosanero finally had their first chance after 27 minutes with Afriyie Acquah’s screamer skimming the crossbar. Acquah wasted a great chance by ballooning the cross off target with a furious Fabrizio Miccoli waiting.
Instead, Mutu set up another opportunity for Antonio Candreva with Benussi again coming to the rescue. Palermo opted for a tactical substitution after just 34 minutes, replacing Armin Bacinovic with Nicolas Bertolo.
It seemed to work, as they had a fantastic move moments later with the Josip Ilicic free kick going past everyone to reach Matias Silvestre’s toe at the back post, but Nicola Ravaglia responded with a stunning reaction save.
Ravaglia was called into action again, as Miccoli sprung the offside trap from Acquah’s pass and the shot on the bounce was well parried. Ravaglia flapped at a dangerous free kick, but none of the Palermo players in the box were able to steer the loose ball into the net.
Cesena went so close on 58 minutes, as Abdel Ghezzal’s cross took a deflection off Ezequiel Munoz and cracked against the crossbar with Benussi rooted to the spot.
Munoz was booked for tripping Eder on the edge of the box and from that rocket of a Mutu free kick, Benussi did all he could to beat it off the line, then the Candreva follow-up whistled wide.
Cesena were pouring forward in the second half and took a thoroughly deserved lead with Mutu’s 99th Serie A goal – seven of them against Palermo. The corner found Mutu’s towering header from nine yards that soared over Benussi.
Just 30 seconds later, Munoz received a second yellow card for fouling Eder in midfield, reducing Palermo to 10 men. It probably should’ve been nine, as Acquah escaped without a second booking for his lunging tackle on Candreva. Devis Mangia saw the danger and immediately substituted him.
Miccoli tried to lead the fightback with a blockbuster from just outside the area that Ravaglia just about managed to stop slipping under the bar. Moments later, Ravaglia ran off his line to close down Bertolo and a deflected Lores Varela header skimmed the upright.
Palermo were pouring forward with Marco Pisano acting as a striker and Bertolo in defence, but left gaps on the counter, which Erjon Bogdani wasted with his hesitation in front of goal, allowing Silvestre to clear.
Sent off: Munoz 65 (P)