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.
Former Inter and Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan has joined his old club Cagliari, returning to Sardegna Arena for the first time since he left for Roma in January of 2014.
While reports indicate that Inter manager Antonio Conte told the 31-year-old he was no longer wanted, the move to Cagliari came as a bit of a surprise. However, it seems there is some personal motivation behind Nainggolan’s decision to rejoin his old club.
Nainggolan’s wife Claudia Lau is set to undergo chemotherapy as she battles cancer, and she is originally from Cagliari. Therefore, it makes sense as Nainggolan refers to Cagliari as “home” in his announcement of the move.
“It was not hard to choose Cagliari although I did have other offers,” Nainggolan said in the official announcement. “I spoke with some other managers but it was right to come back here and I must first thank the president. After our first call, he completely convinced me right away, he made promises and he has kept them. Things have gone the way I would have liked them to have gone and it was easy to reach an agreement.”
The Belgian midfielder played 29 times for Inter in his lone season with the club, making 22 stars and earning a consistent place in the lineup over the second half of the season. However, with Conte taking over this summer for Luciano Spalletti, Nainggolan’s spot in the center of the pitch has been compromised, pushed out by the likes of Matias Vecino, Roberto Gagliardini, Marcelo Brozovic, Borja Valero, and others in a crowded Inter midfield.
Mauro Icardi’s tumultuous time at Inter Milan might finally be coming to a close after Inter Milan chief executive officer Beppe Marotta revealed that the Argentine is “not part of our plans, with all due respect.”
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With a full rebuild already taking place under new manager Antonio Conte, Icardi’s long overdue departure from the club now seems only a matter of when, not if. Marotta left it in no uncertain terms and also cast aside midfielder Radja Nainggolan — quotes from Football Italia:
“When building a project, you have to find the right profiles. We had the opportunity to speak to the players themselves, with full respect for their contractual situations, but explained the position of the club, which I think is the most important thing.
“Both players know full well they are not part of our plans. That doesn’t mean we doubt their talent or capabilities, as I consider them to be two excellent players.
“Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for. They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”
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Icardi is said to come with a price tag of nearly $70 million, which leaves only a handful of clubs with the financial means to sign him. The most likely scenario is that Icardi remains in Serie A, with Juventus and Napoli reportedly interested in strengthening their respective squads at the expense of a fellow top-three side.
Inter dominated the first half, but Cristiano Ronaldo struck just past the hour mark and gave Juventus a 1-1 draw at Inter that prevented the hosts from truly pulling away from the Champions League muck.
Juventus, having already confirmed the Italian title last weekend, was held to just one shot on target through the first half. On the other end, Radja Nainggolan struck a beautiful goal to to pen the scoring, a blistering hit from outside the top right corner of the box that left Wojciech Szczesny late to react.
That had Inter in the lead, with a win set to push them six points above fourth-placed Roma, into a great spot leaving the Champions League race well behind them. Instead, Ronaldo played a one-two with Paulo Dybala and found space in the box to slot home the equalizer from near the penalty spot. That confirmed the 1-1 final scoreline, pushing Inter just four points above Roma and leaving with AC Milan with the opportunity to pull within three of Inter with a win Sunday.
AS Roma moved into the top four – at least for now – with a convincing 3-0 win against Cagliari in the Italian capital. The home side got revenge for the reverse fixture that featured a two-goal comeback by Cagliari despite being down two men. This time around, Roma went up 2-0 inside the opening 10 minutes on goals from Federico Fazio and Javier Pastore, and Aleksandr Kolarov finished it off late. The win moves them up to 58 points, good to move past AC Milan into fourth. AC Milan still has to take the field tomorrow at Torino, but any slip would see Roma gain the advantage for the final Champions League spot.
Finally, Bologna topped Empoli 3-1 at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara to keep the visitors in serious relegation trouble. Empoli had a 1-0 lead at halftime, but Roberto Soriano, Riccardo Orsolini, and Nicola Sansone all scored throughout the second half to send the home side on its way. That left Empoli in the final relegation position, four points back of 17th placed Udinese.
MILAN (AP) Inter Milan has banned midfielder Radja Nainggolan “for disciplinary reasons.”
In a brief statement on Sunday, Inter says it “can confirm Nainggolan has been temporarily suspended from football activity.”
The club has not disclosed precise reasons, or the length of the ban, but according to Italian media reports he turned up late for training on Sunday morning, and had also done so several times last week.
Nainggolan was fined and dropped from his previous club Roma’s squad for a match in January after a series of drunken, live Instagram postings on New Year’s Eve.
The 30-year-old Belgian joined Inter in the offseason in a deal which valued him at 38 million euros ($44.3 million).
Nainggolan has struggled with an ankle injury this month but played more than an hour of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Chievo Verona.
The suspension means he will miss Wednesday’s showdown against Napoli. Inter is third in Serie A, eight points behind Napoli and 16 adrift of leader Juventus.