Sampdoria’s last match of the season at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris ended in defeat, as Napoli once again proved too strong for the Genoa-based side.
Second-half goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Raul Albiol gave the visitors a deserved win, although Sampdoria also had opportunities of their own. However, Napoli’s 28-year wait for a Scudetto goes on, as Juventus confirmed their seventh successive triumph with a goalless draw away to Roma.
On paper, this match had ‘end of season encounter’ written all over it before the start. Napoli’s chances of winning the Scudetto had all but gone, as had Sampdoria’s hopes of a Europa League place.
However, fears of a dull encounter soon proved to be unfounded, as Napoli sprinted out of the blocks from the very start. Sampdoria worked hard to close them down, but the hosts soon looked stretched.
Even before Napoli dominated the early exchanges, Sampdoria’s chances of victory looked slim. They had gone 13 league games without a win against I Ciucciarelli and were missing their top scorer Fabio Quagliarella, who was ruled out with an injury. Marco Giampaolo’s side were also 31 points behind second-placed Napoli before kickoff.
Sampdoria’s task could have become even more daunting in the fifth minute, when Napoli’s top scorer Dries Mertens netted from close range after the hosts had failed to clear a corner. The home side could consider themselves fortunate to see the Belgian’s strike ruled out for offside, as the ball appeared to have come off a Sampdoria player before Mertens tapped it in.
The hosts were also indebted to keeper Vid Belec, who denied Lorenzo Insigne, Raul Albiol and Piotr Zielinski in the first twenty-five minutes – albeit less than convincingly at times – as the visitors applied relentless pressure.
Sampdoria improved after the half-hour mark and began to threaten the visitors. It took a superb Kalidou Koulibaly challenge to thwart Dawid Kownacki, and a Gaston Ramirez free kick was deflected narrowly wide. From the resulting corner, Gian Marco Ferrari’s header clipped Pepe Reina’s crossbar.
Although a goal for the home side would not have been a fair reflection of the balance of play, Napoli would only have had themselves to blame for falling behind, as they failed to capitalise on their dominance in the first half.
The visitors looked a little sloppy at the start of the second half, with the otherwise excellent Koulibaly losing his footing on the wet and slippery pitch. Sampdoria midfielder Dennis Praet might also have done better than shoot straight at Pepe Reina, after Napoli had surrendered possession cheaply in their own defensive third.
The match now looked far less one-sided than in the first half hour, with Kownacki and Insigne both coming close from long range, but it was the visitors who created the best opportunity of the match so far in the 63rd minute.
Insigne and Mertens played an excellent one-two to leave Insigne one-on-one with Belec, who had looked a little erratic at times. However, the keeper produced a brilliant save to deny the Italian from close range.
Finally, in the 72nd minute, Napoli scored the goal which reflected their superiority. Substitute Arkadiusz Milik left Belec with no chance with a glorious curling shot into the top corner.
Nine minutes later – after the match had been temporarily stopped, reportedly because of offensive chants by Sampdoria’s fans – Albiol effectively sealed the visitors’ win with a header from a corner, after Belec had saved an Insigne drive which skidded off the sodden surface.
At the final whistle, the visitors could barely bring themselves to celebrate, as their title challenge had been all in vain.
Both sides will face potentially testing ties in the final weekend of the season, against two sides fighting for their Serie A lives. Napoli will host Crotone, while Sampdoria will travel to SPAL.