Azzurri escape with draw
13 Jun 2008 - 18:59:10
Italy were indebted to goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon for earning them a point from a 1-1 draw against Romania that keeps alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
The 30-year-old Juventus keeper saved Adrian Mutu's late penalty as the world champions stuttered against the Group C outsiders.
Italy made five changes to their starting line-up following the 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands and they created the first chance of the match when Alessansdro Del Piero's close-range header was deflected narrowly wide.
Romania were far more adventurous than in their grim goalless draw with France, and they created a clear opening in the 15th minute when Mutu found himself free down the right only for Buffon to pull off a smart save to deny the Fiorentina striker.
When Italy responded Luca Toni headed wide at the far post but Romania continued to look dangerous and Gabriel Tamas' long-range free-kick forced Buffon to make another good stop.
In the 20th minute another free-kick, this time by Cristian Chivu, beat Buffon only to come back into play off a post.
After Toni had once again headed wide for Italy, Razvan Rat's long-range effort flew narrowly wide with Buffon struggling to get across his goal.
Simone Perrotta was then denied by a last-ditch Paul Codrea tackle after Toni had headed Gianluca Zambrotta's cross in to the six-yard area.
Just before half-time Bogdan Lobont made a superb one-handed save to keep Toni's effort out and then denied the giant striker's close-range shot.
In first-half stoppage time, Toni thought he had headed Italy into the lead but the linesman ruled that the Bayern Munich man had strayed offside.
Romania continued to create chances after the interval and Mutu's swerving long-range effort almost caught Buffon out.
In the 55th minute the underdogs took the lead when Zambrotta tried to head a long free-kick back to Buffon, only for Mutu to nip in and fire the ball home before the Italy goalkeeper could react.
However, 60 seconds later Italy were level when a deep corner was headed in to the six-yard area by Giorgio Chiellini for Christian Panucci to ram the ball home from close range.
Romania almost regained the lead ten minutes later when Daniel Niculae's shot was blocked while at the other end Cosmin Contra nearly turned the ball into his own net.
But it was Romania that had the best chance to win the game in the closing stages.
With nine minutes left, after Panucci had brought down Niculae, Buffon pulled off a brilliant one-handed save to keep Mutu's penalty out and keep the Azzurri in the tournament.