Wednesday, 1 April 2009

[WC Qual] Ten-man Azzurri pegged back

Italy 1-1 IrelandFormer Inter striker Robbie Keane struck a minute from time to earn the Republic of Ireland a 1-1 draw against ten-man Italy in Bari and keep the visitors within two points of the Azzurri in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8.

Giampaolo Pazzini, who had scored on his Italy debut in a 2-0 win in Montenegro last Saturday, turned from hero to villain in less than four minutes as he was sent off after being adjudged to have elbowed John O'Shea.

Despite that early setback Italy took the lead on ten minutes when Andrea Pirlo chipped the ball to Fabio Grosso on the left and the full-back crossed low for Vincenzo Iaquinta who scored comfortably from close range.

Giovanni Trapattoni, returning to his homeland for the first time, reinforced his attack by replacing Andy Keogh with Caleb Folan and Ireland began to control possession, though they struggled to find space against an organised Italy defence.

At the other end, Pirlo again found Grosso down the left and Iaquinta's header was blocked from the resulting cross, but the ball fell to Simone Pepe whose right-foot sliding volley flew just the wrong side of the post.

Gianluigi Buffon had to make a one-handed stop with a powerful strike from Stephen Hunt shortly before half time.

It was a sign of things to come as Ireland pushed Italy back into their half for almost the entire second period, yet the Azzurri defence, orchestrated by captain Fabio Cannavaro, prevented Trapattoni's team from creating serious opportunities until five minutes from time.

Then, Buffon had to make a diving save from Kevin Kilbane's rasping attempt. With one minute remaining, though, Ireland struck. Folan headed a long kick by goalkeeper Shay Given towards Keane who fired past Buffon.

Marcello Lippi's Italy continue to lead the group on 14 points, with Ireland two behind; Bulgaria are a further five points back in third. The Bulgarians host Ireland in June, while the leaders are next in qualifying action away to Georgia in September.

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

Group 8 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 06 - PTS: 14
[2] IRE - PLD: 06 - PTS: 12
[3] BUL - PLD: 05 - PTS: 07
[4] CYP - PLD: 05 - PTS: 04
[5] MON - PLD: 05 - PTS: 03
[6] GEO - PLD: 07 - PTS: 03

Next Group 8 Fixtures:
Saturday 6 June
Bulgaria v Ireland
Cyprus v Montenegro
Saturday 5 September
Bulgaria v Montenegro
Cyprus v Ireland
Georgia v Italy
Wednesday 9 September
Italy v Bulgaria
Montenegro v Cyprus

Group 1 Results:
Wednesday 1 April
Denmark 3-0 Albania
Hungary 3-0 Malta

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

Group 3 Results:
Wednesday 1 April
Czech Republic 1-2 Slovakia
Northern Ireland 1-0 Slovenia
Poland 10-0 San Marino

Group 4 Results:
Wednesday 1 April
Liechtenstein 0-1 Russia
Wales 0-2 Germany

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

Group 6 Results:
Wednesday 1 April
Andorra 0-2 Croatia
England 2-1 Ukraine
Kazakhstan 1-5 Belarus

Group 7 Results:
Wednesday 1 April
Austria 2-1 Romania
France 1-0 Lithuania

Group 9 Results:
Wednesday 1 April
Netherlands 4-0 FYR Macedonia
Scotland 2-1 Iceland

Source: UEFA

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