Sampdoria dent Roma's title hopes with shock win

ROME, April 25, 2010 (AFP) - Giampaolo Pazzini scored a brace as Sampdoria stunned AS Roma 2-1 to deal a potentially fatal blow to the capital-based club's title hopes.

Samp came from behind after a torrid first half to score the shock win that sees Roma drop to second in Serie A, two points behind champions Inter Milan, who beat Atalanta 3-1 on Saturday.

Not only did the Genoa-based club end Roma's 24-match unbeaten run in the league but they also kept themselves in fourth and the crucial final Champions League qualification position, two points ahead of Palermo, who beat AC Milan 3-1 on Saturday.

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri said: "We have to keep going as if nothing has happened, we played the best first half of my time here."

"We have to concentrate on ourselves, the title will be decided at the end in Verona (where Roma play their final game). We've fallen over and we need to get up.

"We're here because (Inter) dropped points along the way. They're very good, well done to them but also to us."

AS Roma's captain Francesco Totti reacts against Sampdoria during their Serie A football match in Rome on April 25, 2010. AFP photo

Roma's first half performance was worthy of champions as time and again they carved Sampdoria open but the only surprise was that they managed just one meagre goal from their domination.

The hosts were in blistering form from the off and French winger Jeremy Menez brought a save out of Marco Storari before Brazilian centre-half Juan sent an overhead bicycle kick from a corner just wide.

After Storari had saved from Simone Perrotta, captain Francesco Totti gave Roma a 14th-minute lead.

Mirko Vucinic picked up the ball on the left and centred for Totti to glance a shot into the far corner.

And just five minutes later it was almost two as Vucinic released Totti in the inside left channel but his shot hit the near post.

Storari saved again from Menez while Totti and Vucinic were both off target as Roma kept the pressure on until half-time.

But despite the one-way traffic of the first period, Sampdoria equalised soon after the restart as former Roma forward Antonio Cassano made space on the left and crossed to the back post where Pazzini's header found a gap between goalkeeper Julio Sergio's legs.

Roma were quickly back on the attack as Juan headed over from a corner but Sampdoria remained resolute.

Midway through the half coach Claudio Ranieri sent on striker Luca Toni as a last desperate throw of the dice.

Toni soon had an identical chance to Pazzini but this time Storari saved with his legs, before the on-loan Bayern Munich man had a strike ruled out for offside.

And nine minutes from time Storari tipped over a rocket from John-Arne Riise.

But four minutes later Roma were hit with a sucker punch as Sampdoria countered and Daniele Manini crossed for Pazzini to sidefoot home his second.

Earlier Juventus kept alive their hopes of Europa League football next season with a routine 3-0 win at home to Bari.

Vincenzo Iaquinta scored a brace in the second period, sandwiching an Alessandro Del Piero penalty.

They are sixth and six points clear of eigth-placed Genoa with three to play, meaning they are virtually assured of European football next season.

Livorno became the first club to be relegated this season despite a 3-1 win at home to Catania as Bologna's 2-1 home success against Parma left Livorno 10 points from safety with just three to play.

Siena are all but mathematically down after their 4-1 defeat at Udinese.

Other news