Italy do a job on Slovenia
Italians now six points clear
Last Updated: March 25, 2011 10:12pm
Motta: Decisive strike
Italy extended their lead at the top of Group C after they edged out Slovenia 1-0 in the Petrol Arena.
The group leaders dominated the game for large portions, yet the home side held firm despite the Italians enjoying the majority of the possession.
Giampaolo Pazzini came closest to breaking the deadlock in the early going, latching on to a ball in from Christian Maggio, only to direct his shot against the upright
Robert Koren was able to draw a save from Gianluigi Buffon in the first half on a comfortable night for the Italian shot-stopper against their closest rivals in the group.
The visitors were made to wait until the 73rd minute before Thiago Motta made the breakthrough, a powerful drive from the edge of the area following some deft link-up play with Federico Balzaretti.
The Italians were without Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi, with both players dropped by coach Cesare Prandelli for breaching the team's code of conduct while competing for their respective clubs.
Prandelli, whose side remain unbeaten in qualifying, fielded Lazio midfielder Stefano Mauri behind attacking pair Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini.
The visitors dominated possession and had the first chance in the seventh minute.
Riccardo Montolivo's shot from outside the area was saved by Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
Italy continued to press forward and were unlucky not to take the lead midway through the first half.
Pazzini struck the far post with a right-footed strike from inside the area.
At the other end, Robert Koren warmed the hands of Buffon with a stinging drive from 30 yards.
Shortly after, Motta's header from Cassano's cross was off target.
The Azzurri twice had the chance to break the deadlock before half-time.
In the 35th minute, Cassano's strike from the heart of the area towards the far post was kept out by Handanovic.
Cassano then fed Pazzini inside the area and the Inter forward struck wide from a good position.
Italy picked up where they left off after the re-start and almost scored in the 53rd minute, but Handanovic made two great saves to deny Cassano and Alberto Aquilani.
Slovenia replied, with Valter Birsa serving substitute Zlatan Ljubijankic inside the area, but his right-footed strike was met by a fine save from Buffon.
Just when Slovenia were looking more dangerous, Italy scored.
Motta played a one-two with Federico Balzaretti inside Slovenia's area before firing a left-footed strike from 12 yards past Handanovic.
The home side surged forward in search of the equaliser.
Italy defended deeply and Buffon did well to come off his line to clear Andraz Kirm's dangerous cross towards the far post as the Azzurri held on for victory.
European Championship Qualifying
Fri 25th Mar - Group C
Serbia2 - 1N Ireland
Slovenia0 - 1Italy
Fri 25th Mar - Group E
Hungary0 - 4Netherlands
Fri 25th Mar - Group A
Austria0 - 2Belgium
Fri 25th Mar - Group D
Luxembourg0 - 2France
Fri 25th Mar - Group I
Spain2 - 1Czech Rep
European Championship Qualifying Group A
European Championship Qualifying Group B
|2||Republic of Ireland||10||21|
European Championship Qualifying Group C
European Championship Qualifying Group D
European Championship Qualifying Group E
European Championship Qualifying Group F
European Championship Qualifying Group G
European Championship Qualifying Group H
European Championship Qualifying Group I