Sassuolo saw off a stubborn Sampdoria with a 1-0 win in Serie A’s Saturday evening match at the Mapei Stadium.
Domenico Berardi bagged his 14th goal of the season in the second half with a smart, intuitive bicycle kick from close range to move his team three points behind seventh-placed Roma, who travel to Sardinia to face Cagliari on Sunday.
The Neroverdi started brightly and took the game to Claudio Ranieri’s team immediately, Berardi bringing a stop from Emil Audero with a couple of minutes on the clock.
Jakub Jankto hit the post for the Blucerchiati from point-blank range, just getting a toe on the ball with an outstretched left leg after Manolo Gabbiadini’s cross had been scuffed into the path of the Czech midfielder by Keita Balde.
Omar Colley was the next man to come close for Sampdoria when his header was cleared away from the line after a cross was sent in from deep by Antonio Candreva.
The game swang from end to end and Junior Traore thought he’d given the hosts the lead just before the half-hour mark, but his goal was ruled out for offside before the two went in goalless at the break.
Jeremie Boga replaced Marlon at half time as Roberto De Zerbi reverted to his tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 formation and it took the silky Ivorian winger just over a minute to test Audero in the Sampdoria goal.
Captain Berardi found the net with an acrobatic overhead kick from six yards after the ball had bounced fortuitously into his path off Colley’s back in the 69th minute.
The home team continued to move the ball smartly but couldn’t quite manage to fashion a decisive chance to double their lead.
Antonino La Gumina saw his appeals for a penalty waved away after he’d let rip with a thunderbolt from the edge of the box on the 88th minute, but the ball was adjudged to have hit Gian Marco Ferrari in the midriff.
De Zerbi’s side picked up their fourth win in as many games, leaving them now three points off Roma.