Wednesday, 15 October 2008

[WC Qual] Aquilani helps Azzurri hold off Montenegro

Italy 2-1 MontenegroTwo goals by Alberto Aquilani gave World champions Italy a victory against Montenegro that kept them top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8.

The Azzurri, held 0-0 in Bulgaria on Saturday to drop their first points of the campaign, took the lead in Lecce after eight minutes through Aquilani's opportunistic finish and although Mirko Vucinic swiftly equalised, his Roma club-mate struck again before the half-hour mark.

Marcello Lippi has now equalled two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo's record of 30 consecutive games without defeat as Italy coach, not counting penalty shoot-outs.

Italy put the weekend frustration quickly behind them. Simone Pepe found space on the left and crossed for Alberto Gilardino; Montenegro goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic got his hand to the ball but Aquilani was in place to tap into an empty net.

Montenegro reacted well and Gianluca Zambrotta was forced to clear a close-range shot by Elsra Zverotic off the line after 16 minutes. Not long afterwards, though, Vucinic, who used to play at Lecce as a youngster, dribbled past Giorgio Chiellini and beat Marco Amelia with a powerful low shot.

Ten minutes later, however, Italy were back in front. Andrea Dossena crossed from the left and Aquilani turned the ball in at the far post with the help of a deflection off Jovan Tanasijevic. Vucinić so nearly levelled late in the half but Amelia saved his superb free-kick.

Chances continued to come at both ends after the interval. After 51 minutes Gilardino had only Poleksic to beat but the goalkeeper got to his low shot; Vucinic then pounced on a slip by another of his Roma colleagues, Daniele De Rossi, but Amelia rushed out to save, and he also dived to palm Jovetic's volley wide.

Having nearly given away a goal, De Rossi was denied one at the other end when his header hit the post, and in the 67th minute Jovetic shot wide.

Montenegro pressed hard to pick up a third draw from as many matches but Italy held on and stayed three points clear of the Republic of Ireland – the only other team to have won in Group 8.

Italy visit Montenegro on March 28, 2009 for both sides' next group games.

Group 8 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Georgia 0-0 Bulgaria
Ireland 1-0 Cyprus
Italy 2-1 Montenegro

Group 8 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 04 - PTS: 10
[2] IRE - PLD: 03 - PTS: 07
[3] BUL - PLD: 03 - PTS: 03
[4] MON - PLD: 03 - PTS: 02
[5] GEO - PLD: 04 - PTS: 02
[6] CYP - PLD: 03 - PTS: 01

Next Group 8 Fixtures:
Wednesday 11 February
Ireland v Georgia
Saturday 28 March
Cyprus v Georgia
Ireland v Bulgaria
Montenegro v Italy

Group 1 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Malta 0-1 Hungary
Portugal 0-0 Albania

Group 2 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Latvia 1-1 Israel
Luxembourg 0-0 Moldova
Greece 1-2 Switzerland

Group 3 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Czech Republic 1-0 Slovenia
Slovakia 2-1 Poland
Northern Ireland 4-0 San Marino

Group 4 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Russia 3-0 Finland
Germany 1-0 Wales

Group 5 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Bosnia-Herzegovina 4-1 Armenia
Estonia 0-0 Turkey
Belgium 1-2 Spain

Group 6 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Croatia 4-0 Andorra
Belarus 1-3 England

Group 7 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Lithuania 1-0 Faroe Islands
Austria 1-3 Serbia

Group 9 Results:
Wednesday 15 October
Norway 0-1 Netherlands
Iceland 1-0 FYR Macedonia

Source: UEFA

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