Super Luis Muriel fires Samp to opening-day victory at Empoli
Sampdoria got their 2016/17 Serie A campaign off to the best possible start on Sunday night as they beat Empoli 1-0 at the Stadio Castellani.
Marco Giampaolo was returning to his old club to take on his old number two in Giovanni Martusciello, but this was no time for sentiment and Samp duly dominated throughout, eventually securing a well-deserved three points.
Giampaolo’s side started quickly, Ricky Alvarez drawing a good save from Alberto Pelagotti after just five minutes.
With Empoli offering little, Samp were content to dominate possession and bide their time in midfield, waiting for their chance to strike.
And strike they did on 37 minutes, Luis Muriel scampering away from his marker on the left of goal before thumping a bullet shot past the helpless Pelagotti and into the back of the net.
Empoli could have no complaints when the half-time whistle blew shortly afterwards – Samp had dominated the first 45 minutes and were good value for their lead.
There was more of the same after the break, with Muriel and his strike partner Fabio Quagliarella both having decent efforts in the first ten minutes. Down the other end, Manuel Pucciarelli wasted a good opportunity to haul Empoli level, but further chances for Muriel and Alvarez put the momentum firmly back with Samp.
Giampaolo turned to his bench midway through the second half, sending on Patrik Schick and Ante Budimir to replace Alvarez and Muriel. The two subs combined well soon afterwards, but Schick’s effort lacked the power to trouble Pelagotti.
As time ticked away, Empoli’s endeavour gave way to desperation and soon the veteran Massimo Maccarone was trudging off have been dismissed for a poor challenge on Edgar Barreto, who in turn was replaced by Mirko Eramo.
Samp dug in well to thwart Empoli’s dying charge, Jacopo Sala in particular showing good poise to hold off Pucciarelli, and the final whistle confirmed an important opening-day win for Giampaolo at his old stomping ground.
Empoli 0-1 Sampdoria (HT: 0-1)
Scorers: Muriel 37.
Empoli (4-3-1-2): Pelagotti; Laurini, Cosic, Costa, Pasqual; Tello (Krunic HT), Maiello (Croce 60), Buchel (Gilardino 81); Saponara; Maccarone, Pucciarelli.
Subs not used: Pugliesi, Skorupski, Zambelli, Dimarco, Signorelli, Bellusci, Diousse, Barba, M. Pereira.
Coach: Giovanni Martusciello.
Sampdoria (4-3-1-2): Viviano; Sala, Silvestre, Regini, Pavlovic; Barreto (Eramo 86), Torreira, Linetty; Alvarez (Schick 61); Muriel (Budimir 75), Quagliarella.
Subs not used: Puggioni, Tozzo, Dodô, Fernandes, Pereira, Palombo, Cigarini, Djuricic, Ivan.
Coach: Marco Giampaolo.
Referee: Mariani (Aprilia).
Assistants: Vuoto (Livorno), Di Iorio (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola).
Fourth official: Dobosz (Roma 2).
Additional assistants: Tagliavento (Terni), Rapuano (Rimini).
Yellow cards: Linetty 61, Barreto 68, Pavlovic 75, Buchel 77, Saponara 86.
Red cards: Maccarone 84.
Added time: 0 + 4 minutes.