Lippi isn’t the kind of guy concerned with critique or running after world records, and I’m sure most of us here would agree getting three points out of a match (such as Italy did today against Montenegro) is the most important thing. Yet, it must come as great satisfaction when someone tells you you’ve officially achieved 30 consecutive matches unbeaten at the Azzurri helm, which puts you right up there with a legend like Vittorio Pozzo (for those unfamiliar with pre-World War II history, he was the World Cup winning coach in 1934 and 1938).
As for today’s match, it was without question a Giallorossi’s affair. Starting with the shirt Montenegro was wearing (red & yellow), the home stadium (Lecce, which traditionally wears those colours), and above all Alberto Aquilani: the Roma midfielder had not played this well since the match vs. Real Madrid back in March, and highlighted his performance by two goals (including his first ever for the Azzurri). Sprinkle a little bit of Mirko Vucinic in between (yet another Roma player), and the picture is complete.
(From KwSport and Gazzetta): Things happened very quickly in the first half. The initial 20 minutes were, to say the least, explosive and the explosions were essentially blue in colour. Gattuso & Dossena lead the way (shots wide), Pepe followed shortly after (shot saved by Poleksic), all this eventually leading to Alberto Aquilani‘s opener in the 8th: Pepe crossed the ball from the right wing, the Montenegrin defense deflected it right into the path of the Azzurri nº10 (that was his number today), who simply had to apply an open-net finish. 1-0 Italy.
Vucinic & friends hadn’t travelled to Lecce just to be mere spectators though. Montenegro immediately fought back, getting close to the equalizer through Simon Vukcevic (Gianluca Zambrotta saving on the goal line)… and then actually getting it, through who else but Mirko Vucinic. Exploiting a good service from Stevan Jovetic (in fine form tonight), the Roma striker ran loose on a counter-attack, feinted Chiellini on the edge of the box and fired a powerful diagonal finish which overpowered Marco Amelia. 1-1.
Fortunately for Lippi, Aquilani (transformed by the manager into a real nº10, not just by the number) was there to put things back in order again. Dossena crossed from the left, Gilardino missed the aerial touch (heavily guarded by his marker), but not King Alberto: the Roma midfielder armed a powerful half-volley that Tanasaijevic could only deflect into his own net. 2-1 Italy, Azzurri back in command.
The half-time, sandwiched between a Marco Amelia score-saving… er, save on a Vucinic FK (1st half) and a Gianluca Zambrotta powerful effort parried by Poleksic (2nd half), gave both teams the opportunity to get re-organized. However, any thoughts of inserting Giuseppe Rossi into the mix Lippi was contemplating, quickly vanished when Montenegro started growing menacing. Vucinic (one-on-one chance after a bad De Rossi pass) and Jovetic (half-volley after a cleared corner-kick) put Amelia to the test once again, so the Azzurri coach decided it was time to take some cover: exit Dossena & Aquilani, enter Bonera and Perrotta. But not before tonight’s nº10 set up two more chances for Gilardino (saved by the keeper) and De Rossi (slamming header onto the post).
From then on, it was essentially a containment affair for the Azzurri, who cruised to the full-time whistle without sending any more scares Amelia’s way (with the exception of a two shots wide by Vucinic & Jovetic). And speaking of Jovetic, in addition to getting Italy another 3 points (and Lippi the aforementioned 30-game record) tonight’s match should prove useful to Viola manager Cesare Prandelli: will he finally give his Montenegrin talent youngster a chance? God knows he left an impact in Lecce tonight…
|GOALSCORERS: 8’, 28’ Aquilani (I), 19’ Vucinic (M).
| ITALY (4-2-3-1): Amelia – Zambrotta, F.Cannavaro, Chiellini, Dossena (58’ Bonera) – Gattuso, De Rossi – Pepe, Aquilani (65’ Perrotta), Di Natale (75’ Quagliarella) – Gilardino. (bench: De Sanctis, Gamberini, Montolivo, G.Rossi). Coach: Lippi.
| MONTENEGRO (4-2-3-1): Poleksic – Pavicevic, Tanisijevic, Batak, Jovanovic – Drincic, Boskovic (80’ V.Bozovic) – Vukcevic, Jovetic, Zverotic (88’ Novakovic) – Vucinic (91′ Damjanovic). (bench: M.Bozovic, Jeknic, Burzanovic, Bogavac). Coach: Filipovic.