Coach Massimo Ficcadenti made a fantastic return to the Cagliari bench as Mauricio Pinilla’s hat-trick crushed nine-man Cesena 3-0.
A week ago the Sardinians opted to sack Davide Ballardini after the 6-3 defeat to Napoli and brought back Ficcadenti, who had himself been fired in November. Cesena were rock bottom and the introduction of boss Mario Beretta hadn’t done much to change their fortunes.
Daniele Dessena, Moustafa El Kabir, Rui Sampaio and Sebastian Eriksson all missed out for the home side. The visitors had Daniel Pudil and Luca Ceccarelli suspended, plus Vincenzo Iaquinta, Steve Von Bergen, and Roberto Guana injured.
There was a great Cagliari chance in the opening 120 seconds, as Andrea Cossu’s corner found a spectacular Mauricio Pinilla overhead kick, brilliantly saved by Francesco Antonioli.
Cagliari did take the lead from another corner. It was pulled back for Albin Ekdal, whose shot was parried by Antonioli under pressure from Thiago Ribeiro, but only into the path of Pinilla to tap in from a couple of yards.
Cossu cut in from the left to turn Gianluca Comotto inside out, but fired wide of the near post.
Cesena had their first chance of the match on 27 minutes, but Adrian Mutu drilled straight at the goalkeeper after controlling a long ball off his chest.
Moments later Cagliari incredibly failed to double their lead, as a Daniele Conti through ball surprised the central defenders, but Thiago Ribeiro somehow blasted wide of an open goal when Antonioli had rushed off his line.
Mutu did considerably better with a free kick from the outside corner of the box, which was curling its way in at the near post before Michael Agazzi could claw it away. Agazzi had his palms stung again from a long-range deflected Rossi effort.
The home side had timid penalty appeals for Tommaso Arrigoni’s blatant shirt-tug on Thiago Ribeiro, although the South American let himself fall too obviously.
However, the referee did point to the spot when Thiago Ribeiro had his heels clipped by Marco Parolo in first half stoppages. Pinilla stepped up and successfully converted to double Cagliari’s lead and his own tally.
After the restart, Rossi brought down Cossu for another Cagliari penalty and Pinilla completed his hat-trick by converting with a powerful raised central finish past Antonioli.
The tension got to Cesena, as captain Giuseppe Colucci got himself sent off for a second bookable offence, diving in to spark a scuffle when Santana and Victor Ibarbo were having words.
The visitors were reduced to nine men, as Rossi received a second yellow card for persistent shirt-tugging. It was a disastrous game for Rossi, who also gave away two penalties. Cesena still created another chance, as Parolo's snapshot was beaten away by Agazzi.
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Sent off: Colucci 60 (Ce), Rossi 78 (Ce)