Serie A: Joao Pedro matches Italy legend Riva's 52-year Cagliari record, M'Bala Nzola brace lifts Spezia
Sampdoria and Cagliari are 10th and 11th respectively, both on 10 points after seven games, as they push for European football next season.
Milan: Sampdoria saw its five-match unbeaten run end in a 2-0 loss at Cagliari in Serie A on Saturday after it was forced to play more than half the game with 10 men.
João Pedro converted a second-half penalty and Nahitan Nández also scored after Sampdoria defender Tommaso Augello was sent off five minutes before the interval. Pedro scored for the fifth consecutive Serie A match to equal a 52-year-old club record set by Italy legend Gigi Riva.
Former European champion and World Cup runner-up Riva, who led Cagliari to their only Italian title in 1970, was the last player in the club to score five in the first seven league matches back in 1968.
Riva, Italy's all-time top scorer with 35 goals in 42 games and also Cagliari's with 164 goals in 315 league games, celebrated his 76th birthday on Saturday.
"I changed the system to favour Joao," said Cagliari coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
"I wanted to wish a happy birthday to the great Gigi Riva, a symbol for Cagliari."
Sampdoria would have gone third with a win but it remained midtable, six points behind early leader AC Milan.
Sampdoria arrived in Sardinia on a run of good form, having won four of its last five matches, but it hadn't won at Cagliari in 13 years and was given an early scare when João Pedro hit the crossbar.
Sampdoria's hopes of ending its negative streak on the Italian island diminished shortly before halftime when Augello brought down Nández as the Cagliari player was going clear from midfield. The referee initially showed Augello a yellow card but changed it to red on video review.
Matters went from bad to worse for Samp three minutes into the second half when Lorenzo Tonelli fouled João Pedro, who struck the resulting penalty under the diving Emil Audero for his fifth goal in as many matches.
Cagliari doubled its lead in the 69th minute when Nández ran on to a through-ball and fired past the onrushing Audero.
Riccardo Sottil also had a goal disallowed for offside for Cagliari.
M'Bala Nzola scored two quick-fire goals in Spezia's 3-0 win over Benevento that was a matchup between two sides promoted from Serie B last season.
Tommaso Pobega volleyed in Salva Ferrer's cross to give Spezia the lead in the 29th and both sides hit the woodwork either side of the break.
Nzola turned in Emanuel Gyasi's cross in the 65th and all but secured the points when he headed in a corner five minutes later.
It was the first time the 24-year-old French forward had scored in Serie A.
Spezia leapfrogged two points above Benevento into 13th.
The pressure grew on Fiorentina coach Giuseppe Iachini after his side was held to a 0-0 draw at Parma.
Fiorentina has won only one of its last six matches and is 12th in Serie A, two points above Parma.
(With inputs from AFP)
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