2014/2015 Italian Serie A
  • João Pedro (20')
  • Matías Vecino (90'+3')

Empoli's late equaliser sours Zdenek Zeman's return to Cagliari

Zdenek Zeman was denied a winning return to the Cagliari bench as Empoli equalised deep in stoppage time to snatch a 1-1 draw in their Serie A clash on Saturday night.

It was not the heavy wind and strong rain which arrived midway through the second half that dampened the spirits of the Czech coach's return, but former Cagliari midfielder Matias Vecino with his last-gasp leveller.

The Sardinians showed glimpses of the gung-ho football with which Zeman has forged his reputation down the years and it seemed like Joao Pedro's 20th-minute strike was going to be worth all three points.

But as the conditions deteriorated, there was a sting in the tail for Zeman's Cagliari.

Zeman was reinstated as Cagliari coach following their decision to part company with Gianfranco Zola on Monday.

It did not take long to see his signature back on the team, most notably in his customary 4-3-3 formation, but also in the attacking style of play.

There was renewed enthusiasm in Cagliari's game, and it was no coincidence that they took the lead in the 20th minute during a good spell of pressure.

Joao Pedro put the brakes on just on the edge of the penalty area before cutting inside and curling his shot into the far corner of Luigi Sepe's goal.

Cagliari then enjoyed a good 20 minutes of dominant football, going close to a second on several occasions - first with Lorenzo Crisetig's deflected effort being turned just wide by Sepe and then with Joao Pedro's free-kick hitting the outside of the right-hand post.

The same post came to Sepe's rescue when Paul Jose M'Poku was denied his second goal of the season.

Amid this pressure, Massimo Maccarone wasted a chance to level with a shot from level with the penalty spot which he sent over.

That chance showed the down side to Zeman's football with his defence always looking capable of conceding.

Even when the heavens opened in the second half, and with a strong wind blowing in their face, they tried to prevent Empoli a way through.

The visitors went close when Daniele Rugani's shot was deflected over by Modibo Diakite, but as Cagliari struggled to get out of their own half, the ball kept coming back at them.

With less than 30 seconds of stoppage time remaining, the guests made their breakthrough with Vecino slotting a low shot past Zaljko Brkic to silence the Stadio Sant'Elia just moments before they were expecting to celebrate a crucial win.