Cagliari promoted to Serie A: Casteddu score last-gasp winner over Bari in Serie B playoff final

There was late, late drama in the Serie B promotion playoff final as Cagliari broke Bari hearts deep into stoppage time at an electric Stadio San Nicola to secure their place in Serie A for 2023/24.

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Cagliari secured their return to Serie A in the most dramatic fashion as a 95th-minute goal from 90th-minute introduction Leonardo Pavoletti saw them claim a 1-0 win over Bari to win the Serie B playoffs. Bari were heading for being promoted themselves until the goal swung it the way of the Sardinians.

The whole two-legged tie was packed with drama after Bari had levelled things up in the 96th minute of the first leg with a Mirco Antenucci penalty, and they were in pole position to end their own 12-year wait to play in Italy’s top flight until Pavoletti struck late in the second leg.

Bari’s Stadio San Nicola. (@sscalciobari)

With the first leg having ended 1-1 in Sardinia and Bari having finished higher in the Serie B table than Cagliari, a draw after two legs would have seen the side from Puglia promoted due to Serie B’s slightly unusual tiebreak rules in the playoff system. Though that wouldn’t have come into effect until the end of an additional 30 minutes of extra time.

A packed San Nicola

The second leg of the Serie B playoff final between Bari and Cagliari drew enormous an crowd in Puglia, as was expected. The Galletti have boasted excellent attendances all year and they, along with Genoa, regularly attracted crowds larger than many Serie A sides during the 2022/23 Serie B season.

The 58,000 packed into the Stadio San Nicola thought they had promotion secured late in the 90 minutes when Michael Folorunsho fired past Boris Radunovic but his attampt crashed off the woodwork rather than bursting the net.

Then, Cagliari boss Claudio Ranieri turned to Pavoletti in the 90th minute. Coming off the bench, the big frontman found himself on the end of a Gabriele Zappa cross to finish and seal a 2-1 aggregate win and a place in Serie A for the Sardinians.

Cagliari will take the place of Spezia in Serie A as the Aquilotti were relegated at the same time as the Rossoblu sealed promotion, losing their Serie A relegation playoff fixture with Hellas Verona.

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