Simone Zaza was hero and villain, as he scored the goal for Torino, was sent off and nine-man Cagliari snatched an away draw.
Andrea Belotti was suspended with Iago Falque and youth team talent Vincenzo Millico injured, so Simone Zaza stepped in to attack, supported by Alex Berenguer and Daniele Baselli. Cagliari were forced into changes with Ragnar Klavan back from a long injury lay-off, but Alessandro Deiola, Lucas Castro and Fabrizio Cacciatore missed out, with Luca Ceppitelli suspended.
It was a fiery start, as Nicolò Barella and Tomas Rincon were booked in the opening 120 seconds. Alessio Cragno had to be alert with a one-handed save at full stretch on Daniele Baselli’s curler from the edge of the box.
Cagliari came even closer at the other end, Artur Ionita’s ferocious strike thumping the crossbar from just inside the area, with Salvatore Sirigu beaten.
Armando Izzo was furious when he seemed to be shoved in the back as a set piece came in, clattering into Ragnar Klavan, but there was no VAR despite Walter Mazzarri’s appeals.
Lorenzo De Silvestri then accidentally got Klavan’s shoulder in the face as they jumped, leaving the Toro wing-back with what appeared to be a fractured nose. It allowed Ola Aina to make his comeback after a three-match ban.
Joao Pedro wasted a promising counter and straight after the restart, Cragno flew to palm a Soualiho Meite glancing header round the post from a free kick.
Leonardo Pavoletti’s header skimmed the upright and it looked as if Sirigu got his fingertips to it, but the referee awarded a goal kick.
Torino eventually broke the deadlock from another set play. A free kick found Izzo at the by-line, his pull-back redirected by Zaza from five yards. The striker was in the right place at the right time and celebrated by emulating Belotti’s ‘Gallo’ gesture. It was Zaza’s fourth Serie A goal against Cagliari, confirming their status as his favourite victims. It was also only his sixth touch of the entire game.
Sirigu had to be alert and use his palms to deny a Pavoletti towering header at the back post, but the game that had been threatening to bubble over all day finally exploded.
Zaza clearly insulted the referee after a free kick was awarded against him and was shown a straight red card, just as Ola Aina made his return from a three-match ban for the same offence.
Moments later, Cagliari got back on level terms, as Pavoletti’s header from a Luca Cigarini ball over the top surprised Sirigu. At first it was ruled offside, but after several minutes of the silent VAR check, it was confirmed he was level with the defenders.
The drama continued, as Valter Birsa’s scorcher flew past the post, but then Luca Pellegrini took down Ola Aina for his second bookable offence, so Cagliari also went down to 10 men.
It was wide open, Sirigu palming a Cigarini strike out from under the bar, then Alberto Cerri sliding in just unable to get the touch to a Paolo Faragò ball across the face of goal.
Barella was booked in the opening minute and got his second yellow card at the 95th for halting a Vittorio Parigini counter-attack, reducing Cagliari to nine men.
Torino almost snatched it at the end of seven minutes of stoppages, but Cragno flew to push Baselli’s free kick out from the near top corner.
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Sent off: Zaza 73 (T), Pellegrini 82 (C), Barella 95 (C)