Parma boost European hopes
Last Updated: 04/05/14 4:36pm
Antonio Cassano opens the scoring for Parma
Parma's quest for European football is back on track after Sunday's 2-0 home victory over Sampdoria snapped a two-game losing streak in Serie A.
Back-to-back defeats to fifth-placed Inter Milan and then Cagliari left the Gialloblu in real danger of missing out on Europa League football, with Torino capitalising to sneak into sixth.
But goals from Antonio Cassano and Ezequiel Schelotto dragged Parma to within a single point of Torino before the two clubs meet at the Stadio Olimpico next weekend.
While mid-table Samp had little to play for on a warm afternoon at the Ennio Tardini, a long-awaited return to continental competition remained within Parma's reach.
Their goalkeeper Pavol Bajza blocked a solid effort from Roberto Soriano within the first five minutes, but Parma made their first chance count moments later as Cassano pilfered the opener.
The former Samp striker brought up his 12th goal of the season by seizing on a ball driven into the area by Jonathan Biabiany and dummied by Marco Parolo to leave Vincenzo Fiorillo standing still.
The visiting keeper did well to deny Parma a quickfire second as he pushed Afriyie Acquah's close-range attempt out for a corner and he soon denied the lurking Amauri.
Parma kept pushing forward and Fiorillo made another smart stop after Cassano sent Biabiany through on goal with a ball over the top.
Having weathered the storm, Samp managed to seize control for the rest of the half and Bajza was kept particularly busy by Stefano Okaka, Soriano and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, the latter striker went for the far corner, only to see Bajza at full stretch force the ball out for a corner.
Gabbiadini's free-kick beat the wall, but not the Parma keeper in the 35th minute and, after Bajza got gloves to Eder's long-range sighter, the Gialloblu came close to pulling two goals clear.
Three minutes into first-half stoppage time, Cassano drove the ball into the area where Amauri headed against the flailing Fiorillo.
Parma wrested back control of proceedings when play resumed and 10 minutes after the restart Biabiany watched his searing effort whistle just past the far post.
Schelotto came up just short on sliding Cristian Molinaro's low cross into the Samp net and Acquah was unlucky to be ruled offside when running on to another Cassano through-ball.
The Blucerchiati flirted with equalising as time ticked away. Substitute Gianluca Sansone saw his strike deflected towards goal but covered by Bajza in what was probably the stickiest moment for Parma.
The Gialloblu always had another goal in them, though, and it arrived at the death to rubber-stamp all three points.
Molinaro tried his luck from distance but, after the ball was parried back into the Samp area, Schelotto arrived to convert with ease.
Italian Serie A