Saturday, 28 March 2009

[WC Qual] Pazzini wraps up Azzurri triumph

Montenegro 0-2 ItalySecond-half substitute Giampaolo Pazzini scored on his Italy debut as the holders defeated Montenegro 2-0 in Podgorica to strengthen their hand at the top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8.

The Sampdoria forward came on on the hour mark and took less than 15 minutes to make his mark as he headed in a cross from Simone Pepe, sealing the points after Andrea Pirlo's eleventh-minute penalty.

The victory moves the Azzurri on to 13 points, two ahead of Wednesday's visitors to Bari, the Republic of Ireland, who were held 1-1 by Bulgaria in Dublin.

Things began inauspiciously for Italy when Antonio Di Natale was forced off after just nine minutes with a knee injury, his Udinese team-mate Pepe replacing him. Two minutes later, though, Marcello Lippi's men were ahead as Pirlo stroked in the spot-kick after his cross had been handled in the area by Radoslav Batak.

Pepe fired wildly over after 23 minutes with only Vukasin Poleksic to beat after a raking pass from Daniele De Rossi, while Gianluigi Buffon had to be alert at the other end to deny Stevan Jovetic as the Fiorentina youngster attempted to restore parity from outside the box.

Vincenzo Iaquinta passed up a superb opportunity to double the lead early in the second half after being teed up by Pepe, a miss he was almost made to regret as Radomir ─Éalovic forced Buffon into a brilliant reflex stop after 67 minutes.

Pazzini showed his colleague how to do it with 15 minutes remaining, diving to nod in Pepe's centre as Italy maintained their unbeaten start to the group.

The World champions will now welcome Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland to Bari on Wednesday to try to extend the lead over their second-placed rivals to five points with four games remaining.

Group 8 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Cyprus 2-1 Georgia
Ireland 1-1 Bulgaria
Montenegro 0-2 Italy

Group 8 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 05 - PTS: 13
[2] IRE - PLD: 05 - PTS: 11
[3] BUL - PLD: 04 - PTS: 04
[4] CYP - PLD: 04 - PTS: 04
[5] MON - PLD: 04 - PTS: 02
[6] GEO - PLD: 06 - PTS: 02

Next Group 8 Fixtures:
Wednesday 1 April
Bulgaria v Cyprus (1600)
Georgia v Montenegro (1800)
Italy v Ireland (1950)

Group 1 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Albania 0-1 Hungary
Malta 0-3 Denmark
Portugal 0-0 Sweden

Group 2 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Israel 1-1 Greece
Luxembourg 0-4 Latvia
Moldova 0-2 Switzerland

Group 3 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Northern Ireland 3-2 Poland
Slovenia 0-0 Czech Republic

Group 4 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Germany 4-0 Liechtenstein
Russia 2-0 Azerbaijan
Wales 0-2 Finland

Group 5 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Armenia 2-2 Estonia
Belgium 2-4 Bosnia-Herzegovina
Spain 1-0 Turkey

Group 7 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Lithuania 0-1 France
Romania 2-3 Serbia

Group 9 Results:
Saturday 28 March
Netherlands 3-0 Scotland

Source: UEFA

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