Mario Balotelli lasted seven minutes before his red card for insulting the referee, as Brescia held Cagliari to an ill-tempered 2-2 draw.
These were two teams in crisis and desperate to stop the rot. The Sardinians went from European contenders to a run of four consecutive Serie A defeats and a midweek 4-1 Coppa Italia thrashing at Inter, managing one point since December 2. The Rondinelle weren’t doing much better, fresh from a 5-1 humiliation by Sampdoria.
Sandro Tonali and Andrea Cistana returned from suspension for the hosts, but Dimitri Bisoli sat out a ban and Mario Balotelli was suffering from flu. Cagliari made the trip without Fabrizio Cacciatore, Luca Ceppitelli, Daniele Ragatzu and Leonardo Pavoletti.
Giovanni Simeone held off two defenders to test Jesse Joronen at the near post in the opening minutes, but Emanuele Ndoj horribly ballooned over at the other end after Ernesto Torregrossa’s attempt was palmed into his path.
Sabelli’s free kick whistled just wide, but it was Cagliari who broke the deadlock when Nahitan Nandez’s cross from the right found Joao Pedro for a towering header.
Brescia’s equaliser was also down to aerial prowess, as Sandro Tonali’s free kick sought out Torregrossa for his header at the far post.
It remained open, Joao Pedro testing Joronen at the base of the near post and Simeone scuffing from a promising position while under pressure.
Brescia introduced Birkir Bjarnason for his debut after the restart, with Daniele Dessena returning from a long injury lay-off, but it was Torregrossa who restored their lead with a scorching strike from distance into the far top corner.
Sandro Tonali was naïve when running into the back of Simeone for a penalty, as the Argentine was running away from goal and it was an entirely unnecessary challenge. Joao Pedro converted to complete his brace and draw Brescia level.
Jhon Chancellor was unlucky not to restore Brescia’s lead immediately, his header from a corner looping up to bounce off the bar.
Torregrossa also threatened a hat-trick, his header looping over, but Mario Balotelli sadly added another huge error to his career.
Balo had only been on the bench initially after suffering from flu. He flung himself into a very high and clumsy challenge on Fabio Pisacane, catching him in the back of the head. This was only a bookable offence, but turning to repeatedly and very obviously swear at the referee cost Balo a second yellow and he was sent off. He had been on the field for seven minutes.
Cagliari tried to make the most of the situation, Nainggolan’s daisy-cutter testing Joronen, but Brescia held on for a point.
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Sent off: Balotelli 81 (B)