Italy survive Romania scare
Gianluigi Buffon kept Italy's hopes alive after saving a late Adrian Mutu penalty against Romania.
Last Updated: 13/06/08 7:24pm
Gianluigi Buffon kept Italy's Euro 2008 hopes alive after saving a late Adrian Mutu penalty against Romania that could have seen them eliminated after their opening two games.
Romania took a second half lead through Mutu on 55 minutes after a costly error from Gianluca Zambrotta, but Italy hit back just one minute later as veteran defender tapped home following a header from Giorgio Chiellini.
In an exciting first half, Italy dominated, but Romania had chances of their own to open the scoring, with Mutu being denied by Gianluigi Buffon from close range and Christian Chivu hitting the post from a deflected free-kick.
Italy thought they had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Luca Toni was unfortunate to have his goal chalked off for offside.
And after Mutu and Panucci had scored in the second half, Mutu was given a golden chance to win it for his side from the spot nine minutes from time, but could not find a way past Buffon.
Italy coach Roberto Donadoni made five changes to the starting line-up but it failed to inspire the Azzurri, who are still winless after two games.
Fabio Grosso, Giorgio Chiellini, Simone Perrotta, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Del Piero all started, while World Cup-winners Marco Materazzi and Gennaro Gattuso, who looked sluggish in Bern on Monday, were among those omitted.
The Italians, severely criticised after their flat display against the Dutch, showed a sense of urgency from the start and almost broke the deadlock in the eighth minute.
Del Piero's close-range header from Perrotta's cross went just wide of the near post.
In the 15th minute, Romania should have gone in front, but Mutu's left-footed strike from the edge of the area was parried away by Buffon.
At the other end, Toni latched onto Grosso's cross, but his header went high over the bar and Romania hit back as Buffon was then forced to fully stretch to clear Gabriel Tamas' free-kick towards the far post.
Italy almost fell behind in the 19th minute, with Cristian Chivu's free-kick deflected by Panucci but rebounding off the far post, with Buffon already beaten.
Romania were forced to make their first substitution midway through the first half, with Nicolae Dica replacing the injured Mirel Radoi.
Italy showed more determination and twice had the opportunity to take the lead, but both Del Piero and Toni headed wide before Romania goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont made a one-handed save to deny Toni's header from Alessandro Del Piero's corner.
Neither coach made any substitutions after the re-start and Italy picked up where they left off.
However, disaster soon struck for Italy. Gianluca Zambrotta's woeful back-pass towards Buffon was intercepted by a determined Mutu, who showed great composure to fire past the goalkeeper and silence the Azzurri fans.
But it did not take long for Donadoni's men to hit back.
Chiellini latched onto Del Piero's corner and headed towards the far post, where an unmarked Panucci emerged to poke the ball into the back of the net.
The goal inspired the Italians for a time, as they surged forward more aggressively, but again they failed to find a finishing touch.
Their best chance as the game approached drew on fell to De Rossi, who got his head on the ball from close range, forcing Lobont into a spectacular save.
Italy continued to surge forward, but their efforts to clinch their first win on Swiss soil proved no avail.
But it could have been much worse when, as the game entered the final 10 minutes, Panucci was judged to have brought down Mutu as they tussled for a cross at the near post.
But Buffon kept their Euro 2008 hopes alive, stopping Mutu's late penalty with an agile save which saw the ball rebound off hand and foot before heading out for corner.