Udinese vs. Sampdoria, Final Score 3-1: Zebrette's European quest gallops forward

Dino Panato

Udinese eventually saw off Sampdoria comfortably, increasing their chances of once again qualifying for European football next season.

Following his side's great recent run of form, Francesco Guidolin only made a single change to the side that beat Cagliari last week, Giampiero Pinzi playing in place of Andrea Lazzari in the midfield. Sampdoria haven't won in seven matches, but Delio Rossi only made two changes to the side that were thumped by Fiorentina, Renan and Paolo Castellini replacing Angelo Palombo and the suspended Daniele Gastaldello.

Both of these sides play a counter-attacking style but due to their recent run and the fact they were the home team, it was Udinese who pressed forward, with Sampdoria using their five-man midfield to attempt to stifle the Zebrette attack.

Whilst the match was by no means dull, there was a dearth of clear-cut chances, Sampdoria threatening on the counter when Pedro Obiang threaded the ball behind the Udinese defence for Eder, but Zeljko Brkic just beat the Brazilian to it.

When you have a player like Antonio Di Natale in your team, one chance is all you need and so it proved with Udinese converting their first real opportunity of the match. Maurizio Domizzi found the feet of Di Natale from the left wing and his sublime first touch took him away from his marker before calmly finishing past Sergio Romero for a classic Di Natale goal.

The goal opened the match up and within five minutes, Sampdoria were level. Some patient build-up play saw Mauro Icardi find Eder 20 yards out. The Brazilian took a touch to shift it on to his right foot before firing past Brkic to raise the Blucerchiati's spirits.

Di Natale managed another chance before half time, Roberto Pereyra's left wing cross headed goalwards but it was weak and straight at Romero.

After just six minutes of the second half, Udinese re-took the initiative, Danilo pumping the ball forward from the centre circle and Di Natale beating Romero to the ball, flicking a stunning half-volley past the hapless goalkeeper and in off the underside of the bar, a truly brilliant piece of opportunism for his 20th goal of the season.

Again, the Udinese goal appeared to galvanise Sampdoria and the Zebrette were lucky to remain ahead after Brkic fumbled Eder's speculative drive, just managing to recover before the ball crossed the line.

Eder was causing problems again, after Di Natale hacked down Mauro Icardi Eder fired the resulting free kick low but Brkic produced a wonderful fingertip save to more than make up for his previous error and protect Udinese's lead.

Sampdoria were coming forward with purpose and Eder in particular was finding space in the Udinese defence, his run forward ended in a pass for substitute Gianluca Sansona who unleashed a wonderful drive from the left hand side of the penalty box which Brkic got nowhere near, unfortunately for Sampdoria the effort came back off the post to deny what would've been a stunning goal.

As Sampdoria threw more men forward, bringing on Maxi Lopez for Andrea Poli, Udinese began to counter themselves and find more space in amongst the Sampdoria defence, substitute Luis Muriel poking wide after Di Natale scuffed his effort.

It was an attempted counter attack that led to Udinese's third goal, a ball over the top was routine for Sergio Romero however the goalkeeper was so calm, he stroked the ball straight to Muriel, who drove into the box and made no mistake, punishing the Argentine goalkeeper with a smart finish to put the game beyond Sampdoria to extend their unbeaten run to six matches and cement their sixth place, four points clear of Inter in seventh.

Udinese: Brkic; Benatia, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Allan, Pinzi, Gabriel Silva; Zielinski (Muriel 55), Pereyra (Agyemang-Badu 76); Di Natale

Sampdoria: Romero; Mustafi, Rossini, Castellini; De Silvestri (Berardi 81), Renan, Obiang, Poli (Lopez 78), Estigarribia; Icardi, Eder (Sansone 62)

Goals: Di Natale 29, 51 (U), Eder 34 (S), Muriel 88 (U)

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