Buffon penalty save helps keep Italy’s Euro dreams alive

June 14th, 2008 - 2:25 am ICT by IANS  

Zurich, June 14 (DPA) Gianluigi Buffon saved a penalty as world champions Italy came from a goal down against Romania to salvage a 1-1 draw in a Group C match in Zurich and thus keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of Euro 2008. Adrian Mutu took advantage of a defensive blunder by Gianluca Zambrotta on 55 minutes to put Romania in front but within a minute Italy were level when Christian Panucci tapped in from close range after Giorgio Chiellini headed back across the goal of Bogdan Lobont.

But Italy, who lost 3-0 to the Netherlands in their opening match, were staring a second defeat in a row in the face when, with nine minutes remaining, Panucci was adjudged to have fouled Daniel Niculae in the area.

However, Buffon managed to brilliantly parry Mutu’s penalty and salvage a vital draw, which gives Roberto Donadoni’s side their first point of the campaign. The result sees Romania, who played out a scoreless draw France their opening match, move on to two points.

Donadoni rang the changes for this match, making five changes from the side that lost so heavily to the Dutch.

Both sides went into the game knowing that a defeat would probably mean the end of their Euro hopes and the teams played attacking football in the first half, creating several chances.

The Romanians were weakened in the 22nd minute after Mirel Radoi had to be stretchered off with a head injury after colliding with a teammate. The defender was substituted for Nicolae Dica.

Romania nearly took the lead in the 17th minute after Mutu was sent through, but the Fiorentina striker failed to beat the advancing Buffon.

Three minutes later the Romanians had another opportunity as a Christian Chivu free kick took a deflection off Panucci but crashed against the post.

Italy enjoyed a very strong spell shortly before the break as Lobont pulled off some breathtaking stops from Luca Toni and Giorgio Chiellini.

In first-half injury time Toni finally had the ball in the back of the net after a header following a Zambrotta free kick, but referee Tom Henning Oevreboe ruled the attempt offside.

Early in the second half, Romania finally broke the deadlock after a disastrous attempt at a header to his own goalkeeper by Zambrotta.The ball fell short and Mutu was on hand to smash the ball past Buffon.

The lead lasted just a minute though as Chiellini headed the ball into the area after a corner and after several Romanian defenders failed to clear, it fell to Panucci, who was standing just a metre or so from the line and had a simple task of pushing the ball into the net.

Italy pushed in search of a winner and in the 75th minute Daniele de Rossi forced a world-class save from Lobont after being set up by Toni.

However, it was Romania who had the best opportunity to snatch all three points but Buffon was up to Mutu’s penalty.

France play against the Netherlands in the later game in Berne.

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