The first half started with a tense and very physical 30 minutes marked by two yellow cards for U.S. Lecce, and also Torino FC’s goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu, needing treatment after a collision with Gianluca Lapadula. The scoring threats were all Torino, and by the 34th minute, Lecce coach Fabio Liverani found himself being warned by referee Antonio Giua.
The next minute, however, everything changed for Lecce. Diego Farias took a shot which Sirigu parried, and Farias followed up with the rebound to score the opening goal. That goal seemed to knock the wind out of Torino, who only managed a couple of more chances and a yellow card before the half.
In an effort to change Torino’s fortune’s, coach Walter Mazzarri brought on Simone Zaza for Alex Berenguer at the half. It was a strange sub, as Berenguer had been one of the better players in the first half. In the 53rd minute, Andrea Belotti, apparently trying to match Farias’ goal exactly, took a shot which Lecce keeper Gabriel parried away, then Belotti slotted the rebound past the Brazilian keeper, only to see his goal called off due to his offside position on the initial shot.
Lecce’s Marco Calderoni took the next shot, which landed incredulously on top of the net. Torino fans must have been counting their blessings on that one. Then Andrea Tabanelli was carded for holding Zaza in the box, and a penalty awarded to Torino. Belotti stepped up and took the penalty and converted it for the equalizer.
Liverani then made a bold double substitution of two forwards, taking off Farias and Lapadula and bringing on Kouame Babacar and Marco Mancosu. Both players had an immediate effect on the match, with Mancosu making a great tackle in the 72nd minute. That was followed by a Calderoni strike from distance that was parried away, with Mancosu following it up with the rebound to put it past Sirigu for the game-winner.
Babacar had a stunning shot on the volley a few minutes later, with Sirigu stepping up with an equally great save. Belotti had a great chance on a counter that was also saved by Gabriel at the other end. It was a nail-biting final 10 minutes of regulation. In the 90th minute, there was a great cross in for Armando Izzo, who took the shot, and Gabriel parried it out, only to see Belotti attempt an overhead bicycle kick, and Gabriel made an amazing save on the Torino striker.
There would actually be 11 minutes of stoppage time in this match, most of which was taken up by an injury and a very careful VAR review by Giua. In the 97th minute, Simone Verdi put in a cross, which Kevin Bonifazi headed over. On that play, Belotti was pulled down in the box and called for a penalty. Giua consulted with the VAR officials, then went to the VAR booth to review the play. Finally, he came back and ruled that Belotti had pulled Andrea Rispoli down with him, so did not give Torino the penalty that could have at least salvaged a point.
Takeaways from the Match
Discipline was the major issue in this match, with seven yellows given. Giua actually reffed a great game, helping keep tempers under control and being very careful with his VAR decisions, but ultimately getting them right. It was a very physical match.
After starting two for two this season, this is a major disappointment for the Granata, who likely faced this game with too much complacency. There will be a lot of questions for Mazzari after this match.
Meanwhile, Lecce really impressed. This was their first win at Torino in nearly 20 years, so it was a historic victory as well. With a few really great individual performances and a masterstroke double substitution by Liverani, they played a very offensive game, which made it very exciting to watch. They earned their three points and also showed why they could just possibly stay in Serie A this season.
Stand Out Players
The two substitutes for Lecce, Babacar and Mancosu, were both protagonists as soon as they stepped onto the pitch. It was surprising when Liverani pulled Farias off, even if Lapadula was a little disappointing, but the manager made the right decision. Babacar made an impact with his speed and power pushing forward, while Mancosu had great vision and positioning that got him on the score sheet.
Filippo Falco also had a great game, doing well to support his teammates with great passes and crosses the entire match and creating opportunity after opportunity for Lecce.