|Italy 2 - 0 Georgia|
|Written by Sandro|
|Thursday, 11 September 2008 08:24|
Daniele De Rossi's first ever Italy brace secured a 2-0 victory over Hector Cuper's Georgia to maintain a 100 per cent qualifying record. It was again hardly the most convincing performance, but with injuries piling up and fitness levels flagging, the results are the most important thing.
The Azzurri got off to a shaky start in their qualifying campaign, scraping a 2-1 win in Cyprus at the last minute through Antonio Di Natale's brace. The Udinese striker played in his 'home' stadium for this game, as Marcello Lippi switched to a 4-3-3 system. As Fabio Grosso, Alessandro Gamberini, Gennaro Gattuso, Giorgio Chiellini and Marco Materazzi were injured, Andrea Dessena, Nicola Legrottaglie - who passed a late fitness test on a muscular problem - and Alberto Aquilani stepped in.
There was controversy about the Stadio Friuli, as a stage was set up in one of the ends for the upcoming concert by Italian singer Vasco Rossi and it towered over the pitch.
Luca Toni felt he deserved a penalty when he went round Kakha Kaladze, but although the Milan defender grabbed his shorts, Toni did not put too much effort into standing his ground.
Italy went close on 13 minutes as Toni's header was fumbled round the base of the near post by goalkeeper Loria. Di Natale was very lively and combined with Toni to get between the two centre-backs, but his finish was deflected inches past the upright.
The deadlock was broken in absolutely spectacular fashion, as Daniele De Rossi unleashed a left-foot blockbuster from a good 30 yards that smashed into the top corner! Loria was given no chance with the sheer power of the Roma midfielder's sixth international strike.
Kaladze did well to nod a Di Natale cross off the head of Toni, but the problems shown against Cyprus were still present. On 26 minutes Georgia went on the counter as Palermo's Levan Mchelidze rolled across for the totally unmarked Kenia, but he incredibly stumbled from six yards and a deflection off Andrea Pirlo allowed Gigi Buffon to pluck the ball off the line.
The rest of the half was relatively uneventful, as Georgia continued to sit back and Italy controlled the ball.
Sampdoria midfielder Angelo Palombo replaced the quiet Pirlo at half-time, while Kvaskvhvadze came on for Eliava. Di Natale was caught offside as he went to head a Camoranesi free kick, but Fabio Cannavaro's clearance wasn't entirely effective at the other end.
Di Natale was given a standing ovation by the Friuli fans as he made way for Alessandro Del Piero.
The Azzurri had a great chance when Aquilani found space down the left flank and passed back for Toni in the six-yard box, but a Georgian defender managed to dive into the way and clear off the line.
Dossena went on the counter, but Del Piero's curler was over the bar from 10 yards. Vincenzo Iaquinta, fondly remembered for his years at the Friuli, replaced Toni.
Loria smothered an Aquilani snapshot, but some sections of the stadium thought Italy had doubled their lead with a Iaquinta angled half-volley, as it shook the side-netting.
It was still only 1-0 and Georgia began to push in the final 10 minutes. A through ball left Kobiashvili totally unmarked and running towards goal, but Buffon came tearing out of his area to slide on to the ball and clear the danger.
Moments later Italy stroked the ball around well with Camoranesi setting up Iaquinta for a turn and angled drive smothered by Loria.
Kenia went on a solo run past two defenders and blasted a left-foot finish into the arms of Buffon. Cannavaro's sliding tackle stopped Kobiashvili as he prepared to run into the box, as the Azzurri visibly ran out of steam.
However, they still had enough to secure the victory in the final minute. Del Piero guided a through ball towards De Rossi running round the defence and the Roma starlet did not hesitate to place an angled right-foot drive into the far bottom corner. It was his first ever brace in an Italy jersey.
Italy: Buffon; Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Legrottaglie, Dossena; Pirlo (Palombo 46), De Rossi, Aquilani; Camoranesi, Toni (Iaquinta 70), Di Natale (Del Piero 56)
|Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2008 08:25|