R. Standard de Liège ensured their impressive European campaign would continue into 2009 as three first-half goals set up a comfortable win against UC Sampdoria, sealing their progress from Group C with a game to spare.
László Bölöni's team already had one foot in the Round of 32 after back-to-back 1-0 victories over Sevilla FC and FK Partizan, but left nothing to chance in a powerful first-half performance in Belgium. Headers from Igor De Camargo and Oguchi Onyewu put the hosts firmly in control by the 35-minute mark, and by half-time Milan Jovanović had made it 3-0, rounding off a brilliant counterattack with a tidy finish. There was no way back for Sampdoria, who must now beat Sevilla in a fortnight to guarantee their survival.
A draw will suffice for the Italian side should Standard beat VfB Stuttgart in the other Matchday 5 fixture, and given the imperious manner in which they started this contest few would bet against the Belgian champions finishing Group C with a 100 per cent record. De Camargo had headed one good opportunity wide when he broke the deadlock midway through the first half, rising to nod in Jovanović's pinpoint centre. The Brazilian would return the compliment two minutes before half-time, though only after his corner had been turned home by Onyewu.
With Sampdoria reeling De Camargo helped deliver the killer blow – as Standard broke and the ball found its way to him, the quality of his cross was matched by Jovanović's finish. Having rung the changes at the beginning of the second half, the visitors almost replied through Marius Stankevičius but the Lithuanian international blazed over. Instead it was Standard who continued to look the more likely scorers, Jovanović and Dieudonné Mbokani wasting presentable openings.