MILAN — Federico Melchiorri capped a long and remarkable comeback from brain surgery when he scored his first Serie A goal in Cagliari's 2-1 victory over Sampdoria on Monday.
The match appeared set to end in a draw in Sardinia after Sampdoria midfielder Bruno Fernandes cancelled out Joao Pedro's first-half opener four minutes from time.
Two minutes later, however, Sampdoria goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano rushed out of his area to make a routine clearance but miskicked, leaving Melchiorri to fire into an empty net.
The whole team and the bench rushed over to celebrate with Melchiorri, who was making just his second top-flight appearance — 10 years after his first.
"It's the right reward for all his hard work," Cagliari coach Massimo Rastelli said. "I really liked the fact that all the squad went over to embrace him."
Melchiorri was sold by Siena to lower-league Sambenedettese in 2007 and then almost forced to quit football when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years later.
He returned, seven months later, and worked his way back to the top from the fifth division of Italian football.
Melchiorri helped Cagliari to promotion from Serie B last season, although his campaign was brought to a premature end in April when he injured his knee.
The 29-year-old forward returned on Monday evening as a 74th-minute substitute and opened his Serie A scoring account within 15 minutes.
"I am very happy," Melchiorri said. "Now I am ready."
It was Sampdoria's fourth straight loss and left it a point above the relegation zone.
Atalanta was also on six points after easing to a 3-1 win at last-place Crotone.
Alejandro Gomez, Andrea Petagna and Jasmin Kurtic scored in the first half for Atalanta, which had Franck Kessie sent off shortly after the hour mark following an challenge on Noe Dusenne.
Substitute Simeon Tochukwu Nwankwo netted a consolation goal for Crotone in the 86th.