Euro 2012: Cassano and Balotelli send Italy to quarters

June 19th, 2012 - 4:28 am ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), June 19 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli gave Italy a 2-0 win over Ireland and booked their place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012.

Italy qualify second from Group C behind Spain, who beat Croatia 1-0 in Monday’s other game.

Ireland leave the competition with no points and a solitary goal, scored by Sean St. Ledger in their opening 3-1 defeat to Croatia.

Cassano bundled the ball home to open the scoring on 35 minutes from a corner as Richard Dunne desperately attempt to clear the ball when it was already over the line.

Balotelli opened his account for the tournament in the last minute, volleying the ball into the net past opposing defender and Irish goalkeeper Shay Given, despite falling in a challenge with John O’Shea.

Italy created the first chance of the match as late as the 34th minute as the ball hit the shoulder of the Irish defender Sean St. Ledger from Antonio Di Natale’s shot, prompting appeals for a penalty that the referee declined to grant.

Italy went into half-time 1-0 ahead after the referee was not deceived by Dunne’s attempt to clear the ball when Cassano scored.

Immediately after the break, the Italians had several more opportunities to extend their lead, but St. Ledger’s last-second block denied Di Natale before Federico Balzaretti powered the ball past Shay Given’s post.

The Irish responded on 54 minutes with a header from Richard Dunne, which went wide.

Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland side were playing for pride and pushed for an equalizer.

On 79 minutes, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was the one to save Italy, parrying a shot from Keith Andrews, although Buffon was fortunate that there were no Irish players in place to knock in the rebound.

Andrews was sent off with one minute of the 90 remaining after a second booking for dissent following a fierce argument with the assistant referee.

A minute later, second-half substitute Balotelli’s vollet finished Ireland off and ended their disappointing campaign.

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini (Leonardo Bonucci 57), Federico Balzaretti, Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi, Thiago Motta, Antonio Cassano (Alessandro Diamanti 62), Antonio Di Natale (Mario Balotelli 75).

Ireland: Shay Given, John O’Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Stephen Ward, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Robbie Keane (Simon Cox 86), Kevin Doyle (Jon Walters 76), Aiden McGeady (Shane Long 66).

–IANS/RIA Novosti
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