Cagliari gave themselves a huge chance of staying in Serie A with an extraordinary 3-1 win against Benevento at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito on Sunday afternoon.
Goals from Charalampos Lykogiannis, Leonardo Pavoletti and Joao Pedro meant that Gianluca Lapadula’s leveller was no more than a consolation and allowed Leonardo Semplici’s men to seal a monumental victory to lift themselves four points above their opponents in the Serie A standings, even though the hosts will feel hard done by after having what seemed a stone-wall penalty turned away by referee Daniele Doveri in the second half.
The hugely important contest started in an incredible manner when, after 50 seconds, Lykogiannis whipped a wonderful, curling effort into the top corner after Razvan Marin laid off from a smartly worked corner.
Lapadula drew Benevento level on the 17th minute by cleverly lifting the ball over Alessio Cragno after Luca Ceppitelli had gifted Gianluca Caprari the ball with a dreadful pass.
Caprari had a good chance to put the hosts ahead on the half-hour mark, but his left-footed effort was palmed away for a corner by Cragno before both sets of players went off for a pre-planned water break with temperatures touching 30 degrees on a scorching afternoon in Campania.
Pasquale Schiattarella came close but his effort was instinctively and fantastically kept out by Cragno, who was falling back into the goal while doing so. Cragno was brought into action yet again, pulling off another smart stop from Caprari’s close-range header as the Stregoni finished the half on top.
Substitute Gabriele Zappa swang in a deep cross for Pavoletti after 53 minutes, but the forward couldn’t quite rise high enough to get over the ball in order to direct his header towards goal.
Pavoletti managed to do exactly what he couldn’t on the abovementioned occasion when he nodded home Nahitan Nandez’ cross from an almost identical position at the back post to give Casteddu the lead on the 65th minute, following more good work from Zappa down the right flank.
Filippo Inzaghi’s men thought they had earned a late penalty for Kwandwo Asamoah’s apparent foul on Nicola Viola, but referee Doveri controversially decided otherwise after a lengthy VAR check. A strange call that could well see the Campanian side relegated.
The decision took the wind out of Benevento’s sails so Nandez took full advantage by running most of the pitch before teeing up Joao Pedro for his 16th goal of the season to secure three massive points.
Casteddu are now four points clear of Benevento and boast a head-to-head advantage should they finish level on points.