ROME - Sampdoria, fourth last season and
widely expected to be fighting for the European places this
year, suffered a humiliating relegation from Serie A after they
lost 2-1 at home to Palermo on Sunday.
Rivals Lecce won 2-0 at already-relegated Bari in a fiery
local derby, including minor crowd trouble. to help condemn
Sampdoria with one round of matches still to play.
The Genoa side, last relegated in 1999, started the season
in the Champions League qualifiers but sank like a stone after
selling top strikers Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini in
January when they were in comfortable midtable.
"We must acknowledge the errors and assume the responsilbity
for all the mistakes that were made," Edoardo Garrone, son of
owner Riccardo, told reporters.
"The only thing I can say is that the family will stick with
Napoli, who went broke in 2004 and reformed in the lower
leagues, drew 1-1 at home to second-placed Inter Milan to secure
the third automatic Champions League spot and their first return
to the European Cup since 1991.
Champions Milan were awarded the trophy on Saturday after a
4-1 win over Cagliari, having already sealed the scudetto.
Udinese recaptured fourth spot thanks to a 2-0 win at Chievo
and have a two-point cushion over Lazio, 4-2 winners over Genoa
on Saturday, in the final Champions League qualifying spot
heading into the final weekend.
Lazio's city rivals AS Roma are now out of the running for
fourth after Alejandro Gomez's stoppage-time strike sealed a 2-1
win for Catania and potentially ended interim Roma coach
Vincenzo Montella's hopes of the job fulltime.
Seventh-placed Juventus endured another low point in their
second straight season of woe with a 1-0 defeat at Parma where
on-loan Juve winger Sebastian Giovinco scored against his parent
club to leave coach Luigi Del Neri on the brink of the sack.
Former European Cup finalists Sampdoria, who boasted the
likes of Gianluca Vialli and Ruud Gullit in their pomp, stepped
out at a nervous Marassi knowing they needed a win to give
themselves any hope of surviving.
They went behind on halftime to Fabrizio Miccoli's goal but
Jonathan Biabiany, one of a number of forwards who have failed
to adequately replace AC Milan's Cassano and Inter's Pazzini,
equalised soon after the break.
As Sampdoria desperately sought another goal, Mauricio
Pinilla sent a dagger into their hearts with a late winner.
Sampdoria captain and Italy midfielder Angelo Palombo sobbed
on the pitch at the end and went to apologise to the main group
of ultra fans, who unsuccessfully demanded that owner Riccardo
Garrone also come "in front of the stands" to say sorry.
Cesena were not safe heading into Sunday but left nothing to
chance with a 1-0 home win over already-relegated Brescia.
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