Friday, 19 June 2009

[Euro U21] Italy hang on for Swede victory

Italy survived the sending-off of star player Mario Balotelli to secure victory over Sweden in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Sweden 1-2 ItalyThe Inter striker had earlier produced an exquisite finish to put the Azzurrini a goal in front and Robert Acquafresca's header added to the lead at the start of the second half.

Ola Toivonen grabbed a late consolation but could not prevent Italy from climbing to the top of Group B with four points.

The hosts, buoyed by a passionate home crowd in Helsingborg, took the initiative early on as Marcus Berg passed-up a good opportunity to score early on. With just over 10 minutes gone, Rasmus Elm's free-kick took a deflection and almost crept into the bottom-corner but Andrea Consigli stretched to make a good save.

Italy began to play themselves into the game as the first half wore on with Acquafresca squandering their first real chance by heading a cross straight into Johan Dahlin's arms.

However, Pierluigi Casiraghi's side were to take the lead shortly after when 18-year-old Balotelli curled a beautiful strike inside the post from 20 yards out after Sebastian Giovinco's turn and chipped pass.

Balotelli's joy turned to agony before the end of the half when the referee showed him the red card for clashing with and reacting to Sweden midfielder Pontus Wernblom.

Sweden looked to make the most of their one-man advantage after the break, Berg going close after being played in by Toivonen.

But it was Italy who again found the back of the net when Giovinco crossed brilliantly from a free-kick and Acquafresca supplied the finishing touch with his head.

Toivonen went close twice, Wernblom drew a good save from Consigli and substitute Martin Olsson sent his header just wide of the post but Sweden struggled to get the goal that would have brought them back into the game.

Toivonen did give the host nation a glimmer of hope late in the game with a great turn and strike into the bottom corner.

It came too late to save the game, however, and Italy will face Belarus on Tuesday night confident of claiming the point they need for a place in the last four.

In the day's other game, Serbia and Belarus missed the chance to pile the pressure on Sweden after playing out a goalless draw in Malmo - but remain in contention for a last four spot.

Both teams looked lively enough in possession of the ball, however, the pair lacked a cutting edge up front in what proved a scrappy game devoid of any significant goal-mouth action.

Belarus and Serbia, who play the hosts, will qualify if they win their final group games.

Sweden: Dahlin, Lustig, Byasmyr, R.Bengtsson, E.Johansson, Elm, G.Svensson (Harbuzi 66), Wernbloom, Bajrami (Olsson 66), Toivonen, Berg.
Italy: Consigli, Motta, Andreolli, Bocchetti, Criscito, Marchisio (Dessena 88), Cigarini, De Ceglie, Giovinco (Abate 61), Balotelli, Acquafresca (Ranocchia 75).

[UEFA Euro U21 Championships 2009]

Source: Sky Sports

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