Cagliari gave Fiorentina a football lesson and consolidated their new status with a 5-2 victory, inspired by Radja Nainggolan’s screamer and hat-trick of assists.
This was a surprisingly high-profile battle for a top six position, considering both sides had flirted with relegation last season. The hosts were in joint fourth place with Lazio and Atalanta, but Luca Ceppitelli, Valter Birsa, Alessio Cragno and Leonardo Pavoletti missed out. Giovanni Simeone faced his former club, who had Franck Ribery continuing his ban for pushing a linesman.
Cholito completely lost his confidence in Florence after a series of horrible misses and showed another here only three minutes in, prodding off target from four yards on a Joao Pedro knockdown. Gaetano Castrovilli’s free kick whipped past everyone to skim various heads and go out.
Play halted at the 13th minute, as both teams and the entire crowd stood to applaud for Davide Astori. The much-missed Viola captain spent most of his career at these two clubs and the mascots all walked out before kick-off wearing DA13 jerseys.
Cagliari took a deserved lead with a well-worked team goal. It had a series of great one-touch passes, completed by Radja Nainggolan’s no-look flick off the outside of the boot to send Marko Rog clear and he blasted in the finish.
It was almost 2-0 moments later, as Bartlomiej Dragowski only parried Simeone’s angled drive and a desperate Nikola Milenkovic slide stopped Joao Pedro tapping the rebound into an empty net.
Nainggolan failed to make the most of a German Pezzella back-pass, as Martin Caceres sprinted back to make the crucial tackle.
Cagliari were dominant and doubled their lead on a corner, as Luca Cigarini found Fabio Pisacane’s header into the far bottom corner. The defender made his run from deep, therefore evading the zonal marking.
Nainggolan was involved again for the third goal. His run down the right and angled drive forced a save at the near post, so when it came back to him, he rolled it across the six-yard box for Giovanni Simeone’s audacious back-heel flick. Cholito seemed almost incredulous at his goal and moved to tears, celebrating with the Fiorentina ‘captain’s salute’ to Astori.
The Viola fought back, Pezzella’s half-volley from a corner forcing a difficult Robin Olsen save, while Federico Chiesa curled over from a tight angle.
To make matters worse for Fiorentina, Gaetano Castrovilli and Erick Pulgar were booked, meaning they’ll be suspended for the next game.
Olsen flew to palm a Dalbert missile out from under the bar, but just as the visitors were swarming in a desperate bid to get back into the game, they were undone by the third Nainggolan assist.
Ninja created the goal from nothing, as he snapped at the heels of Caceres and Milan Badelj to win it back in midfield, surged forward and then placed a delicate slide-rule pass in for Joao Pedro’s powerful finish.
It was nearly 5-0, as in the same move, Simeone was denied by a desperate sliding tackle and Dragowski’s save at the near post.
The fifth arrived in real style, as Nainggolan added a goal to his hat-trick of assists, gathering from 25 metres out and hitting an unstoppable rocket into the top corner, despite Dragowski getting his fingertips to it.
Even at 5-0 up, Cagliari had no intention of slowing down. Luca Pellegrini’s cross flashed all the way across the face of goal to find Fabrizio Cacciatore at the back stick, only able to deflect it on to the side-netting.
There was a consolation goal, the first in Serie A for Dusan Vlahovic, as he gathered the Dalbert pull-back and was given time and space to drill into the far bottom corner from 12 yards.
Nainggolan was given a standing ovation when substituted, but it still wasn’t over, as Vlahovic completed his brace with a well-placed left-foot curler from the tightest of angles after Luca Pellegrini gave the ball away cheaply.
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