Cagliari Club Focus: A fine day for hunting little zebras
The Sardi’s 3-0 home victory over Catania during the 2011-12 season was the last time that this happened, and until Sunday it had been nearly two years since they had managed to beat anyone so convincingly.
However, even if they did manage to keep a clean sheet and put three past Udinese when they came to visit the Stadio Sant’Elia on Sunday, the scoreline didn’t tell the whole story.
Indeed, coach Diego Lopez would later express his belief that the final outcome may not have been a true reflection of what happened over the course of the match
“The margin we won by was exaggerated, and the game was very balanced in the end. We won with the right determination.”
There are some days when everything seems to go wrong, but then there are also days when things tend to go your way.
Cagliari, who have endured more than their fair share of misfortune in the past two seasons, perhaps deserved to have lady luck smile on them a little, especially at such time of unrest and turmoil at the club.
Looking at the statistics of the game, the Zebrette can claim to have had 62 per cent of the overall possession, as well as 16 shots on goal – nearly twice the Isolani’s tally of nine – although they only managed to direct five of those on target, just one more than their hosts.
It’s true in football that if you don’t take your chances then you are punished for your profligacy more often than not and while the Rossoblu were undoubtedly ruthless in front of goal, converting three of four attempts which hit their mark, they have Bianconeri captain Antonio Di Natale partly to thank for the final result.
The 36-year-old Neapolitan dynamo had a rare off-day, failing to hit the back of the net, despite trying no less than seven times to do just that.
Although he hit the crossbar with a curling shot, saw another strike well-saved by ‘keeper Vlada Avramov, and blazed over the bar when he maybe should have scored following a cut-back from teammate Dusan Basta, Di Natale just couldn’t find his stride.
One major reason as to why the Sardi concede so many chances to their opposition incidentally, is that they are very prone to losing the ball, something which frequently leads to goalscoring opportunities – this campaign in fact, Cagliari have had their passes intercepted an average of 18.12 times per game, the highest of any team in the Italian top flight.
With the Rossoblu defence so often under fire then, it can only be a good thing that Davide Astori and Luca Rossettini are present at the heart of things to expertly marshall their back-line .
Astori in particular shone on Sunday, making 13 clearances and six interceptions, as well as chipping in with the assist for Victor Ibarbo’s goal during a man of the match performance.
Though just as behind every good man is a good woman, behind every solid rearguard is a dependable goalkeeper, and it’s fair to say that Avramov has put his calamitous mistake against Livorno well and truly out of his mind.
After his similarly assured display against Inter last time out, he’ll no doubt have taken home a tidy clean sheet bonus for his endeavours in Week 26.
Daniele Dessena took up his usual position in the Sardi central three, having played as right-back for the day against the Nerazzurri, and along with Andrea Cossu and Matias Vecino, ensured that Daniele Conti, who was serving the second game of his two match ban, was not missed.
While Cossu filled his captain’s shoes well from his deep-lying position in front of the defence, contributing five tackles in total, Vecino had his best performance yet in a Cagliari shirt, displaying great technical quality to score his first goal for the club.
The 22-year-old Uruguayan met Agim Ibrahimi’s free-kick 10 minutes from time with a left-footed volley into the bottom left corner of Simone Scuffet’s goal to double the home side’s advantage.
Ibrahimi also experienced his first joy in Rossoblu colours when he replaced Cossu in the 76th minute, finally making the most of one of his cameo appearances to serve up an assist for Vecino and score one of his own with just 60 seconds left to play.
The 25-year-old broke quickly down the right flank and cut inside to deliver a marvellous curled effort past Scuffet in the Udinese goal, as he emerged the unlikely hero and match-winner.
Meanwhile, South American strike duo Victor Ibarbo and Mauricio Pinilla combined well, and put themselves at the service of the team.
Ibarbo was the more dangerous of the pair showing excellent movement for his goal which broke the deadlock, and his speed and strength frequently caused headaches for the Friulani defence.
The result was a convincing 3-0 win, which sees Cagliari leapfrog Udinese into 14th position, with both teams on 28 points and effectively separated by only one goal.
The Sardi are of course still not safe and while they are three points closer to salvation, they are a mere seven points from the relegation zone and will naturally be looking over their shoulders until they can ensure survival.
Everyone involved with the club will be hoping that this can be a turning point in their season, and a springboard to achieve further positive results, but while it turned out to be a perfect day for them to hunt little zebras last Sunday, they had better be careful as they will be confronted with some rather large elephants when they travel to Sicily this weekend.
Follow Anthony Alborino on Twitter: @anthonyalborino