The hosts were rock bottom when Davide Nicola took over on February 15, but surged up the standings and went into the final round on a run of four wins and three draws. A victory would guarantee safety, or just matching Cagliari’s result away to Venezia.
The home fans put out a spectacular choreography to the music of Once Upon a Time in America by Ennio Morricone, but this film was Once Upon a Time in Salerno.
Udinese started strong, though, Gerard Deulofeu’s curler just over the far top corner, then the same player did find the near bottom corner from the edge of the box for a surprise opener.
Deulofeu had the ball in the net again from a tricky angle with a ferocious finish, but he was flagged offside.
Salernitana forced a desperate double save from Bardi with the Federico Bonazzoli strike first, then Verdi on the rebound.
However, Salernitana added a third on the counter when Destiny Udogie won it back in midfield and surged forward, curling an unstoppable finish into the top corner.
The hosts were so unlucky to see Federico Fazio’s towering header from a corner fingertipped onto the upright by Padelli.
Moments later, Udinese received a penalty when Belec brought down Deulofeu on the counter, but the goalkeeper made up for his error with a fingertip save on Roberto Pereyra’s spot-kick.
Pereyra did get his goal eventually, shrugging off Norbert Gyomber to start the run from his own half, then riding another two half-hearted tackles to deposit into an empty-net. He celebrated by showing a message on his undershirt for his father, but that irritated the crowd and Salernitana players, who reacted angrily. Play had to be halted for a few minutes, as the fans threw things onto the pitch including fireworks, which led to a suspension for five minutes.
Bonazzoli fired wide and Fazio’s volley went over the bar, then Udinese nearly scored an own goal when Rodrigo Becao’s attempt at a clearance ended up thumping his own post.
Moments later, Lazar Samardzic’s scorcher thumped the crossbar, but Nestorovski was offside when nodding in the rebound.
Belec denied 16-year-old debutant Simone Pafundi a goal with a tough save, but for the final 15 minutes nobody was really watching this game. Everyone on the bench and in the stands was staring at their phones waiting for news from Cagliari’s match, which was still 0-0, sparking huge celebrations and tears of relief as the final whistle came in from the Stadio Penzo.
Salernitana 0-4 Udinese
Deulofeu 6 (U), Nestorovski 34 (U), Udogie 42 (U), Pereyra 57 (U)
Saved penalty: Pereyra 45 (U)