Tuesday, 16 June 2009

[Euro U21] Azzurrini held by Serbia

Five-time European Under-21 champions Italy had to settle for a point from their Group A curtain-raiser against Serbia in Helsingborg.

Italy 0-0 SerbiaA strong Serbia following in the Olympia Stadion saw Italy dominate for much of the game - but Slobodan Krcmarevic's side held out for a point.

Pierluigi Casiraghi's men enjoyed possession with Juventus ace Sebastian Giovinco the undoubted star of the show - but they could not find a way past Serbia's excellently marshalled back-line.

And when they did have a glimpse of goal, which was rarely, they found Zeljko Brkic in fine form. Indeed Italy were almost caught out late on and they needed their own No.1 Andrea Consigli to be in fine form as he denied Nenad Tomovic from point-blank range.

Italy had begun the game well with Giovinco seeing plenty of the ball, predominately down the left flank. On more than one occasion he beat his man and crossed for Robert Acquafresca, but he could not find the target or seriously test Brkic.

Brkic was tested just before the break when he had to tip over Giovinco's cross-cum-shot. The huge talent that is Mario Balotelli then had one very good chance as he danced his way into the box before firing a ferocious effort at goal but Brkic was again there to parry it wide.

But that proved Balotelli's only real contribution for the day and he was hauled off by Casirgahi just after the hour mark.

Giovinco was presented with the best Italian chance of the match soon after as he was sent clear by Luca Cigarini's wonderful pass. The Juve man took the ball down, but he seemed to panic and looped his shot into the midriff of Brkic when he could and should have scored.

With about 20 minutes left Serbia suddenly came to life and they could easily have claimed the three points. The previously untested Consigli produced a brilliant save as Tomovic latched onto Gojo Kacar's flick-on to fire at goal from just five yards - Serbia's first shot on target - but he could not beat the Atalanta 'keeper.

Then from the following corner Kacar did beat Consigli with a wonderful acrobatic volley, but the post came to Italy's rescue as it slammed against the upright and away to safety.

Zoran Tosic - who showed little during the 90 minutes - did send a long-range free-kick just wide as the match ended in stalemate.

In the day's other game, Marcus Berg fired a hat-trick as hosts Sweden enjoyed the perfect start to their campaign with a crushing 5-1 victory over Belarus in Malmo.

The opening match in Group A briefly threatened an upset when Belarus took a 32nd minute lead thank to Sergei Kisliak, but the Swedes quickly recovered to lead 3-1 at the break courtesy of goals from Rasmus Elm and a Berg brace. Berg completed his hat-trick nine minutes from time before Gustav Svensson smacked home a stunning 30-yard shot in the 89th minute.

Italy stay in Helsingborg and will now play the hosts Sweden in their next game on Friday, while Serbia play Belarus.

Italy: Consigli, Motta (Pisano 78), Andreolli, Bocchetti, Criscito, Marchisio, Cigarini, De Ceglie, Giovinco, Acquafresca, Balotelli (Abate 67).
Serbia: Brkic, Tomovic, Vukovic, Pejcinovic, Petkovic, Tosic, Fejsa, Smiljanic, Matic (Tomic 85), Kacar, Sulejmani.

[UEFA Euro U21 Championships 2009]

Source: Sky Sports

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