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Nainggolan hits maiden Roma brace in Cup romp

Milan (AFP) – Radja Nainggolan’s maiden Roma brace stole the spotlight as his team secured an Italian Cup quarter-final tie against second division Cesena with a 4-0 romp over Sampdoria on Thursday. 

Although Luis Muriel hit the post early on for Sampdoria, a sensational Leandro Paredes volley also hit the woodwork at the other end and was a sign of more to come from Luciano Spalletti’s Serie A title challengers.

Samp ‘keeper Christian Puggioni did well to bat away another scorcher from Paredes, but the keeper was left powerless when Nainggolan pounced on a poor Matias Silvestre touch to fire a right-footed volley from outside the area into the far top corner minutes before the interval. 

The celebrations extended to a substitutes bench featuring an ecstatic Francesco Totti, and were almost back on minutes later when Nainggolan set up Stephan El Shaarawy with a back-heel flick that the forward fired just over.

Puggioni palmed a low drive from El Shaarawy round the near post and from the corner Nainggolan blasted wide.

Two minutes after the restart, El Shaarawy won back possession to set up Edin Dzeko for the Bosnian beat Puggioni at his far bottom corner for Roma’s second.

Dzeko, twice, then Antonio Rudiger were denied but El Shaarawy made amends with a superbly-taken third for the hosts.

The former AC Milan forward controlled Dzeko’s 40-yard pass while on the run, cut in past his marker and controlled to fire a delicate lob over onrushing Puggioni.

Totti replaced Dzeko on the hour and stung Puggioni’s gloves twice.

Diego Perotti capped his recent return from injury with a cross for Nainggolan as the Belgian headed past Puggioni on the stroke of full time.

Roma now face Cesena who on Wednesday had on-loan Sassuolo forward Karim Laribi to thank for scoring the winner that sent his parent club crashing out of the competition.

On Tuesday, Inter Milan edged into the quarters with a 98th minute, extra-time winner against Bologna (3-2) to set up a quarter-final tie at home to Lazio, who beat Genoa 4-2.

In the other quarter-finals, held over the coming fortnight, Napoli face Fiorentina and Juventus host AC Milan, who have beaten the Cup holders twice already this season, in the league and in the Italian Super Cup final.

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