Felipe Caicedo scored an early brace on classic counter-attacks for the Lazio win, but 10-man Sampdoria almost snatched a draw after Fabio Quagliarella’s strike.
This was a head-to-head for European ambitions, as only four points separated them going into this weekend in ninth and eighth place respectively. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto were suspended after the ill-tempered shock home defeat to Chievo, with Stefan Radu, Valon Berisha, Riza Durmisi and Jordan Lukaku injured. Ciro Immobile was rested after Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Milan, which booked Lazio’s place in the Coppa Italia Final. Joachim Anderson was out injured for Samp, but Albin Ekdal made his comeback after a long injury lay-off.
It was the perfect start for Lazio, because after two minutes and 20 seconds, Felipe Caicedo caught Omar Colley in possession in midfield, went charging forward and placed a delicate finish beneath on-rushing Emil Audero. It seemed as if Colley was accustomed to out-muscling strikers, but that wouldn’t work with the Ecuador international.
Moments later, Tucu Correa rode two tackles as he sprinted to the by-line and tested Audero from the tightest of angles.
It really wasn’t Colley’s day, as he went off with a stomach ache after just 15 minutes. Samp had long periods of possession, but struggled to create chances, Quagliarella hitting the side-netting from a tricky angle.
Instead, Lazio struck again with a classic counter-attack, as Correa spread the play for Romulo, whose floated cross from the right was flicked in off the head of Caicedo.
It was nearly a Caicedo hat-trick by the 29th minute, as Correa again went on the counter and threaded through, but his shot was blocked by a decisive last-ditch Lorenzo Tonelli tackle.
The first real Samp opportunity came later, as Gaston Ramirez curled his free kick up and over the wall, but Thomas Strakosha flew to palm it round the near post.
Strakosha also had to smother a Gregoire Defrel header at the back post on another set play, while Ramirez couldn’t quite reach a Nicola Murru cross-shot.
Just as Samp were getting a foothold in the game, they went down to 10 men. Ramirez was already on a yellow card for dissent and received a second booking on the stroke of half-time for an alleged stamp on Senad Lulic. It seemed more accidental than anything else and Lulic was already on the ground following an earlier challenge. As it was a booking and not a straight red, VAR could not be consulted.
Romulo almost made it 3-0 after the restart, his angled drive beating Audero only to bounce off the far post.
However, it was Samp who got on the scoresheet moments later instead. A long ball over the top was deflected, but Quagliarella took it down with a deft first touch and then smashed in with the other boot from 12 yards. It was his 23rd Serie A goal of the season, the 150th of his top flight career.
Suddenly, it was all Sampdoria, even down to 10 men. Nicola Murru unleashed a daisy-cutter that bounced off the far post, ricocheted off the back of Strakosha’s head and wide of the empty net.
It was wide open, as Ciro Immobile came off the bench and a free kick right on the edge of the area was taken short for the striker to hit a missile that bounced off the underside of the bar, hit the line and went back out.
Only 30 seconds later, Sampdoria should’ve equalised, as Jakub Jankto flew down the left, rolled across and Defrel somehow prodded wide of an open goal from six yards.
The hosts poured forward with a series of crosses, while Correa went on the counter in stoppages and Audero plucked the ball off his feet.
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Sent off: Ramirez 44 (S)