Lecce

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Lecce completes comeback in wild finish over Cagliari

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When Radja Nainggolan put Cagliari 2-0 up over Lecce, it seemed the newly-promoted side was sunk at home in an otherwise unremarkable Serie A match.

Then the last 10 minutes happened.

Three players were sent off and two goals were scored as the home side completed a wild comeback and earned a critical point in the relegation battle. Gianluca Lapadula struck from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute, and Marco Calderoni cropped up a minute into stoppage time to secure the draw.

It wasn’t just goals, however, that made the end of the match so exhilarating. Fabrizio Cacciatore and Robin Olsen were both shown straight red cards in the 81st and 85th minute respectively, which Cagliari down to nine men, while Lapadula was given an early shower soon after.

Cacciatore’s red came as he kept out an Andrea La Mantia header with his arm, reaching out to intentionally save the shot – which would have been lauded as the save of the match had he actually, you know, been the goalkeeper. The final two were particularly explosive, with Olsen sent off for shoving Lapadula to the ground immediately after the penalty was scored, while Lapadula was given yellow for his role in the scuffle, his second of the match.

Still, Lecce’s man advantage was critical in the final goal as Calderoni took a feed from Panagiotis Tachtsidis standing straight atop the box, and his through ball was met with a vicious low left-footed strike from Calderoni, leaving Cagliari goalkeeper Rafael late to react. The moment came on a mis-match as two defenders were there to cover three attackers and Calderoni made the most of the situation.

The point sees Lecce just outside the relegation area, in 17th on 11 points, one above Genoa and two on top of SPAL.

Serie A roundup: Juventus, Inter Milan succumb unusual draws (video)

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Abnormal draws from Juventus and Inter Milan on the same matchday highlight Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lecce 1-1 Juventus

With a couple of its stars resting – including Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus traveled to Lecce to take on the recently-promoted club. Shockingly, the league leaders were stunned and walked out with only a point.

Powered by the Argentine duo of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, the Old Lady knocked, and knocked on the home side’s door. To be exact, Juventus took 15 shots in the first half, and even though the majority came inches from being on frame, only one resulted to be on target.

Close chances soon became a regular occurrence throughout the 90 minutes.

But early in the second half, Dybala finally broke the deadlock from the spot, following a hard foul on Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the 18-year-box. It was Juventus’ game to lose.

In a way, that’s exactly what happened when Lecce earned a penalty of their own only six minutes later. Marco Mancosu converted from 12 year out, putting the underdog leveled with the league’s most lucrative side.

Luckily for Maurizio Sarri and company, Parma’s two first-half goals were too much for Inter Milan to top, as the second-place side drew their first game of the season. Juventus, despite dropping two points on Saturday, remain one point ahead of Antonio Conte‘s Inter after nine games played.

With Ronaldo likely on the teamsheet, Juventus hosts Genoa midweek, while Inter Milan travel to Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 2-2 Lecce

Genoa 3-1 Brescia

Lazio, Genoa and Lecce to face match-fixing charges

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Three Italian clubs, Lazio, Genoa and Lecce, along with eight players, one of which is Lazio captain Stefan Mauri, will all face charges related to the alleged match-fixing of two Serie A games in 2011.

Mauri and his eight conspirators – Mario Cassano, Carlo Gervasoni, Omar Milanetto, Alessandro Zamperini, Massimiliano Benassi, Antonio Rosati and Stefano Ferrario – all face charges of sporting fraud, while Mauri and Zamperini face two additional charges for violating the Code of Sports Justice’s principles of loyalty, fairness and integrity, and a ban on betting.

The trial is set for July 24th and if found guilty the players face bans while the clubs could be deducted points. Mauri could be in line for the steepest punishment, with prosecutor Stefano Palazzi reportedly set to ask for the 33 year old to be suspended for five years.

This is the third consecutive off-season that the Italian Football Federation is set to hand out point deductions. Since mid 2011, at least 50 people in Italy have been arrested for match fixing.

The incident at issue appears to stem from Mauri & Co.’s attempt to fix the last two matches of the 2010-11 Serie A season in order to earn Lazio a spot in the Champions League. Here’s how the situation played out.

After losing three consecutive matches – a 1-2 defeat at Inter Milan, a 0-1 home loss to Juventus and a 1-2 loss at Udinese – Lazio’s dreams of playing in the 2011-12 Champions League were fading fast.

With two matches remaining in the season – against Genoa on May 14, 2011 and Lecce on May 22, 2011 – Lazio needed to collect all six points if they were to have a chance at qualifying for Europe’s top competition. With the fixes allegedly in place, Lazio defeated both Genoa and Lecce by scores of 4-2.

What Lazio could not control, however, was how the other Serie A side vying for a Champions League birth, Udinese, would fair in those final two weeks. In their penultimate match the Biancocelesti beat Chievo Verona 2-0.

In their final contest, against that year’s Serie A Champions AC Milan, Antonio di Natale & Co. managed an incredible 0-0 draw. That point was enough to put Udinese into 4th place, edging out 5th place Lazio (who were equal on league points with 66) by mere goal differential.

Just another reminder that even in football, crime never pays.