Mattia Destro’s brace and a Miralem Pjanic free kick allowed Roma to push past Sampdoria 3-0.
The pressure was on Rudi Garcia’s men after a Rome Derby stalemate and midweek 3-0 Coppa Italia semi-final defeat to Napoli. Francesco Totti, Dodo and Federico Balzaretti were on the treatment table and Daniele De Rossi rested, but there were no fans in the Curva Sud or Curva Nord because of a ban to punish anti-Neapolitan chants. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Samp missed Maxi Lopez, but were on a run of two consecutive victories and had scored in all but one of their last 13 games.
These teams also clashed in the Coppa Italia on January 9 with Roma squeezing through 1-0 thanks to Vasilis Torosidis.
Manolo Gabbiadini fired over and Mattia Destro hit his effort straight at Junior Da Costa, but was offside anyway. Despite the two-match ban for ‘territorial discrimination,’ there were more anti-Neapolitan chants from the Distinti area of the stadium, which could lead to an even harsher punishment.
Eder was at full stretch and just failed to get on the end of a smart ball over the top, while Gervinho’s give-and-go was also very close to completion.
Gervinho thought he had scored on 26 minutes when he sprinted down the left and flicked the ball over the goalkeeper, but Daniele Gastaldello bravely threw himself in for a decisive goalline clearance.
Miralem Pjanic drilled just wide, then Morgan De Sanctis smothered a Roberto Soriano strike. Pjanic swung a ball across the face of goal that Destro was centimetres away from tapping in as he came sliding in from six yards.
Pjanic was again inspirational with great work down the right and he pulled back from the by-line to commit a defender, but Douglas Maicon scuffed the shot. The Giallorossi were piling on the pressure and Shkodran Mustafi got the tiniest of deflections to take the Alessandro Florenzi cross off the head of Destro.
Roma somehow failed to score on 40 minutes. Angelo Palombo’s poor backpass under pressure from Gervinho found Pjanic, who sent Kevin Strootman clear, but the Dutch midfielder hit it straight at the goalkeeper.
Moments later Gervinho hesitated in a great position, allowing his shot and Destro’s follow-up to be charged down. Roma wanted a penalty for a Mustafi handling offence in the move.
However, from that corner Destro aimed a wonderful swerving header back across the face of goal into the top corner.
Strootman curled a free kick over after the restart, but Benatia ran a big risk in the penalty area when he came sliding in to block Wszolek and handled. Although he fell on the ball, which prompted the referee to wave play on, replays suggest he nudged the ball with his elbow on purpose.
Pjanic, who was comfortably Man of the Match, doubled Roma’s lead with a fierce free kick that dipped viciously past Da Costa at the base of the near post.
Maicon clutched his hamstring and went off, but the Giallorossi added a third goal to their tally. Gervinho got away down the left and rolled across for Destro, who allowed it to run across his body as he turned Vasco Regini, blasting into the roof of the net.
Palombo stung the gloves of De Sanctis from the D, while Gervinho tested Da Costa at the near post. It would’ve been 4-0 had Nenad Krsticic not flung himself at Pjanic to deflect over the bar from a Gervinho counter-attack.
Samp went down to 10 men in the final minutes, as Gastaldello received a second yellow card for his mistimed tackle on Radja Nainggolan.
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Sent off: Gastaldello 80 (S)