Samuel Eto’o snatched a last-gasp equaliser at Empoli, but it might be too little, too late for Sampdoria’s European hopes.
The Blucerchiati had been challenging for the top three a few months ago, but dropped down to seventh and risked not qualifying for Europe at all. Eder was the only injury absentee, while already safe Empoli had Simone Verdi suspended.
Sampdoria had won six of their last seven meetings with Empoli, home and away in Serie A, B and the Coppa Italia.
The hosts almost went in front after 50 seconds, a Daniele Rugani free header charged down from a corner. Moments later Matias Vecino unleashed a rocket that smacked against the crossbar.
Coach Maurizio Sarri lambasted his team after a 2-1 defeat to Verona for lacking “grit, determination and intensity.” Clearly his talk worked, as they were going at twice the speed of Samp.
There was a lovely give-and-go to send Riccardo Saponara into the box, but Alessio Romagnoli was decisive to intercept, then Emiliano Viviano smothered another fierce Vecino effort.
Sampdoria finally got a genuine shot on target after 36 minutes, Luis Muriel testing Davide Bassi practically from the by-line at the near post.
Massimo Maccarone somehow failed to score moments later, as the ball fell kindly and under no pressure he ballooned over the bar from nine yards.
The pattern continued after the break, as Manuel Pucciarelli’s shot was deflected into the arms of Viviano and Saponara was felled before he could get a strike away.
Empoli eventually did take a deserved lead with youngster Pucciarelli, who ran on to a Maccarone assist to fire an angled drive across Viviano into the far bottom corner. This ended his goal drought stretching back to October 2014.
Samuel Eto’o came off the bench and went down after a tangle of legs with Elseid Hysaj, but the referee believed it was the Sampdoria striker who committed the foul.
There was a flurry of activity on 75 minutes, as first Correa side-footed from nine yards totally unmarked only to see Bassi parry with an outstretched foot, then the move continued into a counter that Piotr Zielinski flashed inches past the far post.
Lorenzo De Silvestri’s header from a corner forced another good save from Bassi, while Eto’o was just a fraction too late to get his toe to a low cross that just needed prodding into the net.
Eto’o did get his goal and Sampdoria’s equaliser in stoppages, spinning on the edge of the box to smash a low drive into the near bottom corner.
However, rather than the Blucerchiati bombing forward for a winner, Empoli had the better chances with Maccarone blasting over.
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