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By ESPN Staff
Nov 30, 2006

Coppa Italia: Sampdoria advance to quarters

ROME, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Sampdoria reached the quarter-finals of the Italian Cup after beating Serie A highflyers Palermo 3-2 to complete a 4-2 aggregate win on Thursday.

Sampdoria travelled to Palermo's Barbera stadium as underdogs, but ran out easy winners thanks to a brace by striker Francesco Flachi and a goal by defender Cristian Zenoni.

The Sicilians were left to dwell on their fourth defeat in 12 days after Serie A losses to Cagliari and Inter Milan, and a 3-0 drubbing by Fenerbahce in the UEFA Cup.

'It's not a happy time for us, but we have to keep believing in the work we are doing, even if the results are not good,' said Palermo coach Francesco Guidolin.

'Undoubtably, the number of matches we are playing does not help. We have very little time to recover.

'But I don't want to make excuses. We gave everything we had tonight. It's just a shame we didn't take our chances better (in the first leg) in Genoa three weeks ago.'

Even with leading striker Amauri and first-choice midfielders Fabio Simplicio and Mark Bresciano starting on the bench, Palermo's second-string team was expected to perform better in front of their home crowd.

Sampdoria had a little luck with their opening goal in the 13th minute, when a deflection left Flachi inside the area with only keeper Federico Agliardi to beat.

Palermo's lack of urgency was punished, however, when Zenoni took advantage of a poor clearance from a free kick to thump in Sampdoria's second goal at the far post.

Flachi threatened to turn the game into a rout when he struck again early in the second half.

Midfielder Roberto Guana restored a some pride for the hosts by heading in a free kick in the 64th minute, but it was only after Sampdoria defender Giulio Falcone was sent off for a last-man foul on Andrea Caracciolo that they finally managed to put the visitors under sustained pressure.

Franco Brienza's close-range strike 10 minutes from time restored respectability, but failed to gloss over Palermo's spiritless performance.

In the quarter-finals, Sampdoria will face Chievo Verona, who went through on away goals after drawing 1-1 with Reggina to complete a 3-3 draw on aggregate.