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Sampdoria heartbreak in Champions League

Sampdoria's Antonio Cassano celebrates after scoring against Werder Bremen during their Champions League playoff second leg soccer match at Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa, August 24, 2010.    REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito  (ITALY - Tags: SPORT SOCCER IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Today I was a Sampdoria fan, I cheered wildly for them, and I hated Werder Bremen with all my heart. It was partly nationalistic, and mostly due to the fact that I wanted to see Cassano in the Champions League. But Sampdoria didn’t make it through, they lost in the most heartbreaking of manners, taking the fans to delirium, and then losing it all.

The first leg of the tie in Germany ended 3-1 for Werder Bremen, the Germans dominated that match, but Pazzini grabbed a crucial away goal in the dying minutes, giving some hope for an upset. All Sampdoria needed to do was win 2-0 and most importantly, not concede. But Werder have a knack for scoring with their very attacking play, so it was never going to be an easy match, here’s what happened in the return leg at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris:

It was a dream start, the perfect way to demoralize the opponent, get the crowd on singing, and pump up the team. Just 8 minutes in Pazzini scored with a header at the back post, making what seemed impossible, possible. Then, two minutes later in the 10th minute, again, Pazzini scores a wondergoal. A magnificent volley, lashed from a cross originating from a free kick, unstoppable. The perfect start for Sampdoria, 3-3 on aggregate edging the tie on away goals just ten minutes in, all they had to do was to not concede.

The blucerchiati troubled the Germans all of the first half, using width and crosses to break through the shaky defense. The Werder Bremen back line was a disaster, terrible marking, men open everywhere, and completely staggered, letting players get behind them. Pazzini had his hat-trick stopped by a clearance off the line, when he was left completely unmarked during a corner, with about a meter and a half of space all around him.

In the second half we saw a more balanced game, Werder Bremen began to tick, they weren’t as sluggish or confused. And while they were dangerous, Sampdoria fought on in hopes of conquering the European dream. And every Italian entered delirium when just five minutes from time, Cassano scored the goal to make it 3-0. A wonderful piece of skill with his backheel, and Wiese, the keeper fumbled it, letting it go over the line. 3-0 for Sampdoria, it was almost over, Di Carlo took Cassano off in the final minutes giving him a standing ovation, and everyone waited for the final whistle.

Referee Kassai gives five minutes of injury time, a lengthy addition, but after Sampdoria controlled the game so well, not too many people seemed to mind. Then, Rosenberg scored in the middle of injury time,  a diagonal rocket which was low and hard. A crucial away goal which took the tie to extra time. The Germans were elated, the Italians slightly disappointed to say the least, a nightmare goal to concede.

In extra time the Sampdoria players were tired, playing with a melancholy weight of having just seen their Champions League place vanish. The Germans pushed forward, Marin was fantastic, wreaking havoc as he tore Stankevicius to shreds, and eventually assissting Pizarro in the final goal which completely shattered Sampdoria’s hopes. Pizarro drilled a shot low and hard, unsavable as he broke the hearts of millions of fans, including mine.

With the final score at 3-2, the Germans went through with an aggregate score of 5-4, knocking Sampdoria out of the Champions League, and hurting Italian football, especially regarding the UEFA co-efficient. I’ve never experienced a match like this, taking me from one emotion to the other, first to joy, then to fear, and finally desperation. Certainly a sad day for Sampdoria fans, but a sad day for Italian football in general.

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