Montenegro 0-2 Italy: Pirlo-Pazzini Give Azzurri Top of the Group (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)

Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini celebrates his goal against Montenegro during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Podgorica March 28, 2009. (REUTERS)

Three points in the bag, and thank you Bulgaria. Italy‘s week-end couldn’t have started better: a win against Montenegro (courtesy of Pirlo and Pazzini) and the Berbatov boys neutralizing Trapattoni in Dublin, Marcello Lippi must be rather satisfied & smiling at his boys’ performance: Saturday’s was match which, for lack of a mind-blowing performance, the Azzurri dominated from start to finish, and after which they are now topping group 8 of the World Cup qualifiers. A good omen to prepare for Bari’s fixture against Ireland.

And what can be said about Giampaolo Pazzini‘s first-ever match with the senior team? Any ball this kid touches these days turns into goals…

FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Montenegro vs. Italy

FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Montenegro 0-2 Italy

In the first half, one the one hand you had Montenegro (lively but ineffectual, more smoke than fire), on the other Italy (exemplary in their cynicism). Technical skills certainly weren’t lacking among the hosts (Jovetic was, as Gazzetta suggested, as beautiful to watch as a museum painting), but the absence of Mirko Vucinic in attack made itself felt deeply. The Cannavaro-Chiellini duo made mince-meat of Djalovic up front, with Keyser Giorgio playing the “masked man” role to perfection (in pure comic-book superhero style, the Juve defender was wearing protective face-gear). Italy took full advantage of their greater experience, and this without working up too much of a sweat: limiting their opponents’ initiatives and responding with dangerous countersset up by De Rossi/Pirlo, as usual playing a key role in pass distribution.

Italy's players pose for photo before their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Montenegro in Podgorica March 28, 2009.  REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic (MONTENEGRO SPORT SOCCER)

Speaking of Pirlo, the Azzurri lead came precisely through the Milan playmaker (today utilized almost as a trequartista by Lippi, with De Rossi & Palombo operating defensive mids). After a right-wing cross which Batak brilliantly spiked into the ground in the penalty box (too bad they weren’t playing volleyball), Pirlo transformed the spot-shot given by the referee to put the visitors in the lead. 1-0 Italy and not a minute too soon, especially since Di Natale had just busted his left cruciate ligament (something which will keep the Udinese man out for the rest of the season, at the very least).

ADN’s replacement, Simone Pepe (another from the Azzurri “Udinese connection”), immediately got to work by exploiting yet another missed clearance by Batak, but wasted his chance over the bar. But Italy were defending their lead well, only putting themselves at high risk when a Palombo backpass was intercepted by Jovetic, which “forced” Cannavaro to bring the Viola striker down with a trip. Yellow card, although in truth a red colour would have been more appropriate. Lucky break for Italy, and 1-0 at the half.

Italy's Andrea Pirlo (L) is challenged by Montenegro's Nikola Pekovic during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Podgorica March 28, 2009. (REUTERS)

Italy took the pitch in the second half with the same 11 players, but Quagliarella and Pepe had swapped flanks. Iaquinta was moving well, finding himself alone in the box exploiting an excellent Pepe pass, but wasted the “moving penalty” chance with a terrible effort. Then the Juve striker picked up a little knock himself, making way for Giampaolo Pazzini, at his first international call-up. The Sampdoria player immediately sought a fairytale start to his Azzurri adventure, but his right-footed effort from close range was saved by Poleksic (former Lecce goalkeeper, for those trivia experts out there).

On the other end Chiello/Canna kept close guard and they were wonderfully complemented by Buffon, on the rare occasions in which the Azzurri defense was indeed broken. Super Gigi made a wonder one-handed save on Djalovic, after a good cross from the left by Boskovic had eluded Chiellini’s intervention (the pass was offside by 1 yard however, even though the flag has stayed down). But what about Pazzini? Well, his near-miss was rapidly followed with a goal, in beautiful Azzurri-trademarked counter-attack style. Pirlo launched an inch-perfect long pass for Pepe on the right side, the Udinese man turned, crossed it for “Il Pazzo” in the middle, completely unmarked and ready to apply a diving header finish. 2-0 Italy and three points in the bag. Also a dream debut for Pazzini, who just seems to score whenever he gets the chance these days.

Now if only we could get him and Cassano reunited…

Super Gigi keeps guard...


 Football Association of Montenegro
[Match Highlights]
 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 11’ pen. Pirlo (I), 74’ Pazzini (I).
MONTENEGRO (4-3-2-1): Poleksic – Pavicevic, Batak, Basa, V.Bozovic – Drincic, Pekovic (79’ Vujovic), Boskovic – Vukcevic (89’ Zverotic), Jovetic – Djalovic (71’ Beciraj). (M.Bozovic, Pejovic, Tanasijevic, Novakovic). Coach: Filipovic.
ITALIA (4-2-3-1): Buffon – Zambrotta, F.Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso – Palombo, De Rossi – Quagliarella, Pirlo (81’ Brighi), Di Natale (9’ Pepe) – Iaquinta (59’ Pazzini). (bench: Amelia, Gamberini, Motta, G.Rossi). Coach: Lippi.


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Posted in Azzurri, World Cup 2010 |

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