Late strike sees Empoli secure point at Sampdoria

Sampdoria’s inevitable relegation to Serie B was officially confirmed following a 2-0 defeat to Udinese last time out. The Genoa-based outfit hosted Empoli on Monday evening at the Luigi Ferraris stadium, as a dismal season for Sampdoria could get even worse for ‘i Blucerchiati – who face the prospect of demotion to Serie D as the threat of bankruptcy looms over the club. One win in nineteen has kept the hosts rooted to the foot of the table.

Back-to-back wins over Bologna and Salernitana have propelled Empoli up to 14th in Serie A, eight points clear of the relegation zone before kick off. Tottenham loanee Harry Winks will be on the move again in the summer following the conclusion of his loan, with Sampdoria’s bleak financial situation ruling out a permanent move for the English midfielder. Juventus loanee Koni De Winter remained sidelined for the visitors.

SAM: Ravaglia; Günter, Nuytinck, Amione; Zanoli, Winks, Rincón, Augello; Đuričić; Quagliarella, Gabbiadini

EMP: Vicario; Ebuehi, Walukiewicz, Luperto, Parisi; Grassi, Marin; Baldanzi, Henderson, Cambiaghi, Caputo

An unsurprising lack of intensity from Sampdoria was prevalent in the opening stages – the porous defence was strained by Empoli frontmen Cambiaghi and Caputo. Despite the slow start, Sampdoria created the first clear opening as Zanoli blazed over the bar from ten yards out following a menacing ball across the box by former Southampton striker Gabbiadini.

The Sampdoria supporters continued to rally their team and they were rewarded when Zanoli attoned for his earlier miss by opening the scoring against the run of the play in the 34th minute. Veteran striker Quagliarella rolled back the years to surge towards the byline and stand a delightful ball up to the back post – where Napoli loanee Zanoli met it with a scuffed volley which deceived Vicario and looped into the corner.

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Referee Ermanno Feliciana brought the first half to a close with Sampdoria boasting a rare half time lead. Empoli’s lack of cutting edge in front of goal had let the home side off the hook, and a second half reaction was needed from the visitors – as a solitary point would secure survival.

Sampdoria continued to look for a second goal following the resumption of play. The rangey Gabbiadini stung the palms of Vicario with a well struck free kick from 30 yards. Sampdoria manager and former Inter Milan icon Dejan Stanković proceeded to bark orders from the touchline as his side looked to record only their second home win of the season.

There was a slight sense of confidence growing in the Sampdoria team as the game approached the hour mark. Empoli had been unable to ask any serious questions of the home sides rearguard in the second half. Caputo, who left Sampdoria for Empoli in January, provided an outlet for the visitors – the diminuitive Italian foward’s pace causing the Sampdoria defense to drop deeper into their own half.

The hosts were happy to soak up pressure and look to hit Empoli on the break – Zanoli’s pace and quality on the ball allowed them to transition effectively. The referee’s yellow card began to take centre stage as the game became scrappy – Gabbiadini and Cambiaghi the latest names into Feliciana’s notebook.

Empoli dominated the ball for the closing stages, but a seemingly resolute Sampdoria defence managed the away side’s attack with relative comfort. However, it was an all too familiar story for Sampdoria – as a hopeful ball into the box was smashed home by Piccoli in the 92nd minute. The Atalanta loanee latched onto a loose ball in the box to secure Empoli’s top flight status for next season. The full time whistle sparked jubilant celebrations for the away side.

A battling second half from Sampdoria ended in disappointment as they came away with just a point. Empoli secure Serie A survival for another season thanks to substitute Piccoli’s last gasp strike. Sampdoria face a daunting trip North to face AC Milan on Saturday but will take some heart from their opponents’ indifferent form as of late. As for Empoli, the visit of Juventus awaits with the threat of relegation squashed.

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