UC Sampdoria learned a harsh lesson about UEFA Champions League football in the first leg of their play-off at SV Werder Bremen when they paid the price for what their captain, Angelo Palombo, described as a "blackout".
The loss of three goals in an 18-minute spell after half-time might have extinguished optimism entirely save for the last-minute header by Giampaolo Pazzini that ensured a glimmer of hope going into Tuesday's return. However, with a 3-1 deficit to overcome, Palombo stressed the need for Domenico Di Carlo's team to raise their game and show more aggression back at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Taking heart from the opportunities they created at the Weser-Stadion – notably through Pazzini who missed an early free header, then struck a post in the second half – Palombo said: "
We have to be even more aggressive because they seemed to be vulnerable to our counterattacks and fast breaks at certain moments and we were just missing the final pass. There is a second leg to play at our ground, it is 90 minutes and we need two goals to get through."
This is Sampdoria's third attempt at overturning a two-goal deficit in Europe and the first two tries were unsuccessful. In the 1985/86 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second round against SL Benfica, they won 1-0 at home after a 2-0 loss in Lisbon. Similarly in the 1998 UEFA Intertoto Cup against compatriots Bologna FC, a 1-0 win in Genoa failed to undo the damage of a 3-1 first-leg defeat. Yet Bremen's 4-1 loss at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in their Bundesliga opener at the weekend shows they are not unbeatable.
Sampdoria defender Massimo Volta, who made his debut in Bremen, said the size of their defeat was "excessive punishment" and Palombo offered a similar view. "Fortunately we got the late goal thanks to good work by Giampaolo and [substitute Marius] Stankevičius [who crossed for Pazzini to score]. I think it was the least we deserved. But when you play at this level it's not enough to just play well – you all have to produce something extra.
"I think the performance was OK, and if you look at their three goals, the first was a wonder goal, the second a penalty and the third was a deflection," Palombo added. "We conceded three goals but did a decent job considering they are far ahead of us in terms of experience of this competition and that was evident tonight."
Samp will have to be quick learners if they are to progress in a competition in which they reached the final on their only previous appearance in 1992 yet, as Volta stressed, they are in no mood to throw in the towel. He said: "The tie is not over yet. We have to believe in ourselves and in Genoa we will do everything to turn things around."
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