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Pazzini fires Samp into Champions League
Sampdoria sealed their place in next season's Champions League with a win over Napoli which preserves their unbeaten home record this term.

A goal from Giampaolo Pazzini early in the second half sealed the points as Samp saw off the challenge of Palermo to join Inter Milan, Roma and AC Milan in Europe's elite club competition.

Napoli made life difficult for the hosts but were unable to beat an inspired Marco Storari in the Blucerchiato goal.

Before the game started, a fan invaded the field protesting against the exclusion of Antonio Cassano from the national team.

The Samp striker helped the stewards remove the peaceful protester and Cassano did not seem too distracted by the incident as he led the home side's first attack in the fifth minute but Gianluca Grava blocked his cross.

Cassano was doing all he could to inspire Samp with his incursions from the right.

In the 17th minute, his low cross went agonisingly across the face of goal. Fernando Tissone recovered the ball but his angled shot was saved by Morgan de Sanctis.

News then filtered through that Palermo had gone ahead against Atalanta, meaning Samp needed to win to be sure of their place in the Champions League. However, rather than be fired up by the news, they seemed to freeze and Napoli took advantage.

Former Samp full-back Christian Maggio's low cross should have provided German Denis with the opening goal, but he somehow managed to miss the target.

Moments later, Paolo Cannavaro put his shot wide as Samp's defence started to wobble.

Their goalkeeper Storari ensured they were able to go in at the break still on level terms as he denied another former Samp player, Fabio Quagliarella, with a fine save.

Just as news was arriving that Atalanta had levelled against Palermo, Pazzini put Samp ahead in the 51st minute to send the Stadio Luigi Ferraris wild.

Reto Ziegler picked out the Italy international with his inswinging free-kick from the right and Pazzini nodded past De Sanctis.

But they still had to rely on Storari again to prevent Napoli from equalising.

He managed to save another shot from Quagliarella with his feet before pushing an effort from Andrea Dossena onto the post.

The home side were preparing their celebrations when a misunderstanding between Storari and Stefano Lucchini almost saw the Samp defender put the ball in his own goal.

Both Samp players were relieved to see the ball go wide of the post, and both could see the funny side too when, minutes later, the final whistle was blown to confirm Samp's place in the Champions League next season, sparking scenes of jubilation in Genoa.
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