Saturday, 6 September 2008

[WC Qual] Last-gasp Di Natale avoids Cypriot shock

Cyprus 1-2 ItalyAntonio Di Natale was the hero for reigning World champions Italy as they left it late to edge past Cyprus on a difficult night in Larnaca.

The Udinese striker scored an early opener and a late winner for Marcello Lippi's side, who struggled to cope with Cyprus throughout this Group 8 encounter following Efstathios Aloneftis's equaliser.

The Azzurri also lost Alessandro Gamberini and Fabio Grosso to serious-looking injuries in the opening 20 minutes.

Italy took the lead on eight minutes when Di Natale dummied Cyprus defender Marios Nicolaou and unleashed a fierce low shot from just outside the area which beat Antonis Georgallides at his right-hand post.

Cyprus drove forward in search of an equaliser and missed opportunities through Aloneftis, Michalis Konstantinou – whose effort was cleared off the line by Fabio Cannavaro – and Yiannis Okkas.

Gianluigi Buffon was finally beaten on the half-hour mark. Nicolaou whipped in a low cross, Konstantinos Charalampidis's attempt was saved by the Juventus custodian and Aloneftis pounced on the rebound as Marco Cassetti failed to clear.

Cyprus continued in the ascendancy after half-time and 19-year-old substitute Demetris Christofi placed a glorious chance wide with only Buffon to beat.

Although the Azzurri looked increasingly potent through forwards Di Natale and Alberto Gilardino, it was home defender Elias Charalambous who might have scored twice in quick succession as his first-time shots from two Aloneftis corners whistled past Buffon's post.

But just when it seemed the hosts would record a famous draw – as they had in a 1983 qualifier when Italy, again, were world champions – Di Natale was left unmarked in the box following slick play from Gilardino and Mauro Camoranesi and beat Georgallides from close range in the second minute of stoppage time.

Lippi's second Azzurri stint may have kicked off with a win tonight, but he knows he has plenty of work to do ahead of Wednesday's clash against Georgia in Udine.

Group 8 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Cyprus 1-2 Italy
Georgia 1-2 Ireland
Montenegro 2-2 Bulgaria

Group 8 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 01 - PTS: 03
[2] IRE - PLD: 01 - PTS: 03
[3] BUL - PLD: 01 - PTS: 01
[4] MON - PLD: 01 - PTS: 01
[5] CYP - PLD: 01 - PTS: 00
[6] GEO - PLD: 01 - PTS: 00

Group 8 Fixtures:
Wednesday 10 September
Italy v Georgia (1950 UK Time, +1hr for Italy/CET)
Montenegro v Ireland (1800)

Group 1 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Albania 0-0 Sweden
Hungary 0-0 Denmark
Malta 0-4 Portugal

Group 2 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Israel 2-2 Switzerland
Luxembourg 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-2 Latvia

Group 3 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Poland 1-1 Slovenia
Slovakia 2-1 Northern Ireland

Group 4 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Liechtenstein 0-6 Germany
Wales 1-0 Azerbaijan

Group 5 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Armenia 0-2 Turkey
Belgium 3-2 Estonia
Spain 1-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina

Group 6 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Andorra 0-2 England
Croatia 3-0 Kazakhstan
Ukraine 1-0 Belarus

Group 7 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Austria 3-1 France
Romania 0-3 Lithuania
Serbia 2-0 Faroe Islands

Group 9 Results:
Saturday 6 September
Macedonia 1-0 Scotland
Norway 2-2 Iceland

Source: UEFA

No comments:

Post a Comment