The bodies are weary, the weather is getting that ever bit warmer as we approach peak summer, yet even after 42 intense matches there are still more to come. Five more to be precise if you play your cards right. And at the end of the day if your body can last that bit longer than the oppositions the prize of Serie A football is what awaits.
That is what Cesena and Spezia faced at the Dino Manuzzi on Tuesday night after sixth and seventh place finishes respectively earned them a shot in the play-off’s. Both would have preferred to have avoided this preliminary round altogether and have a few extra days’ rest but if it helps them get to the promised land in the end then nobody will be complaining.
The temperature in Cesena hovered at a nice 18 to 19 degrees and those inside the stadium were creating a boisterous atmosphere, as the players sussed each other out in what was a tentative enough opening ten minutes or so. It wouldn’t be until the 19th minute when the first effort, as such was struck on target, Cesena’s Antonino Ragusa laying the ball into the centre for Filippo Falco but his effort from the edge of the area was tame and straight at the keeper. Only a minute later at the other end Andrea Catellani’s claim for a penalty were waved away by Mister di Nichelino.
On 23 minutes 19-year-old Franck Kessie narrowly drove wide of the left hand post, with a laser effort that had the home crowd on its feet. From going close at one end Cesena almost put through their own net seven minutes later, Leonardo Fontanesi inadvertently chesting a cross from the right off his own post that had his keeper scrambling.
Maybe it was a sign of what was to come as on 40 minutes Spezia would take the lead and it did indeed come via an own goal. A corner from the right was swung in with pace towards the near post, where Francesco Renzetti with a handful of his attacker’s shirt stooped low to try get it clear only to manage to head it perfectly into the bottom corner of his own net.
The Aquilotti would eventually take that lead into the half time break. A lead perhaps they were not fully deserved in having.
The second half was delayed a moment or two as a very observant linesman spotted a small hole in the goal to the left in front of the 500 or so travelling Spezia fans. Those same fans thought they were about to witness their side go two up in the early stages of the second half only for Lys Gomis to pull off a decent save from close range to keep the seahorses in it. This however was enough to prompt Massimo Drago into action on the Cesena bench with him opting for a double substitution despite the second half only being five minutes old.
Spezia though seemed to be in the ascendency, that was however until the 63rd minute when Filippo De Col stupidly grabbed the shirt of Ragusa who gleefully threw himself to the ground inside the box winning a penalty for his side. A penalty that was then coolly slid into the bottom left corner of the net by Camillo Ciano, sending the keeper the wrong way to make it 1-1. This promptly had the effect of increasing the atmosphere, with the Curva Sud as ever leading the way in song.
From there the match entered a period of scrappiness with both sides struggling to put things together and clear cut chances remaining very much at a premium. This was perhaps understandable given the length of the season both sides had endured. Both sides did however continue to battle hard with neither wishing for the match to go into extra time.
Then with only five minutes left on the clock Spezia would take the lead for the second time. A poor corner from the level almost dribbled into the box where it was dummied by sub Mario Situm and rolled into the path of fellow sub Sergio Postigo who lashed it into the bottom left corner of the net with aplomb.
Desperate not to see their season end Cesena launched an assault on the Spezia goal but were unable to break down a resolute defence who were more than willing to put their body on the line for the cause. The four minutes signalled by the fourth official saw one last burst of energy from the home crowd, sadly their players were unable to match it as Spezia held on for the win and advance to the play-off semi final. Cesena their season ends in bitter disappointment.
FT: Cesena 1-2 Spezia
Cesena: Gomis, Fontanesi, Magnusson, Capelli, Renzetti, Kessie, Cascione, Ciano, Falco, Ragusa, Djuric
Spezia: Chichizola,De Col,Valentini,Terzi,Migliore,Pulzetti,Errasti,Sciaudone,Kvrzic,Catellani,Piccolo.