On Sunday Sampdoria continued their strong start to the Serie A season with a hard fought draw against a confident Juventus outfit. While the game may not appear vital given how early in the season it is, the morale boost that Sampdoria can take from the result is immeasurable. Despite twice falling behind in the second half, they were able to raise their game enough to leave Turin with a point. Considering the injury situation at the club, the result takes on even greater significance as it demonstrates a squad depth that many believed was lacking.
The hero of the hour for i Blucerchiati was striker Nicola Pozzi. The former Empoli man was playing in the absence of Giampaolo Pazzini and did not immediately settle into the game. He chased and harried tirelessly but could not beat Marco Storari when a deflection presented him with a one on one opportunity and it appeared that the cutting edge of Pazzini might be missed. However, Pozzi turned things around brilliantly, opening the scoring after 36 minutes with a perfectly placed finish from the edge of the penalty area before grabbing the equaliser with a powerful header in the second half. Speaking after the game, Pozzi declared himself happy with the result, saying: “To take a point at the home of Juventus is always important”. Perhaps of equal importance is the fact that Pozzi proved he has what it takes to stand in for Pazzini, something that will delight Domenico Di Carlo.
Another squad player continuing to make a name for himself is Daniele Dessena. With Andrea Poli still not match fit and Fernando Tissone out for the foreseeable future, the midfielder has demonstrated a calm, intelligent approach to the game and performed admirably again on Sunday. Although he was at times outfought by the combative Juventus central midfield, his short passing was exemplary and he regularly caused problems arriving late in the box.
Di Carlo was forced by injuries to blood some of his younger squad members, one of which was Vladimir Koman. The Hungarian started in the place of the injured Stefano Guberti and showed glimpses of why he was retained by the club, most obviously with the clever step over that allowed Pozzi to score the opener. After a strong first half Koman faded quickly after the break, finding himself on the receiving end of a clattering from Paolo De Ceglie. While the opposition bullied him too easily in the second half, Di Carlo will find plenty of positives to take from his performance at the tip of the midfield.
The Sampdoria Coach will also be delighted with the impact two of his young players had from the bench. Pedro Obiang was handed a Serie A debut, replacing the lacklustre Franco Semioli, and the youngster did not disappoint. He put in an all action cameo, chasing down the opposition and injecting greater athleticism and desire in the midfield for i Blucerchiati just when Juventus were beginning to gain the upper hand. More impressive still was the performance of Guido Marilungo. The forward who spent last season on loan at Lecce showed exactly why Di Carlo was unwilling to allow him to leave on loan again by tormenting De Ceglie down the right wing. The Italy Under 21 international showed his class with a pinpoint cross for the equaliser and looks to be a real prospect. Both Marilungo and Obiang recently signed contracts to keep them at the club until 2015, suggesting that they are viewed as future first team stars.
Deprived of their usual partners, the squad’s more senior players also turned in excellent displays. Antonio Cassano led from the front brilliantly, demonstrating his outrageous talent time and again as he drifted across the pitch and caused all manor of problems for the Juventus back four. Behind him, Angelo Palombo played a captain’s role in midfield, standing toe to toe with the overly aggressive Felipe Melo and never shirking a challenge. The captain also showed his class going forward, providing an inch perfect chipped assist for Fantantonio to get his side back in the game on 64 minutes.
Domenico Di Carlo made clear his satisfaction with the performances of the younger players, singling out Obiang, Koman and Pozzi for special praise. The coach also set out his goals for the next few fixtures, revealing: “Our goal is to have tactical flexibility, the lads are becoming accustomed to changing into any number of formations.” Fans and players alike will be looking for the improvement to continue and, on this evidence, should see no reason why the side should not experience another successful campaign.