Italy 2 Cyprus 1
Italy coach Marcello Lippi admitted his side were lucky after an injury-time winner from Antonio Di Natale secured them a 2-1 victory in Cyprus in their opening World Cup qualifier tonight.
Lippi went for an attacking line-up in his first official game back in charge of the Azzurri, who are in the Republic of Ireland’s group with three strikers in Di Natale, Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino. It paid off as Di Natale pounced in the ninth minute but Lippi’s plans were disrupted following match-ending injuries to Alessandro Gamberini and Fabio Grosso inside the opening 20 minutes.
“We got more than we deserved,” Lippi admitted. “Lucky that we got the result at the end – which was maybe more than we merited. But we were very unlucky in that we lost two
important players in the first 15
Italy had the impressive Gianluigi Buffon to thank for several fine saves, although the Juventus number one was unable to do anything with Stathis Aloneftis’ equaliser on the half-hour mark.
Di Natale pounced two minutes into injury time to ensure Italy got their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a winning start, and the Udinese striker hopes for more of the same against Georgia on Wednesday.
“I didn’t save anyone, it was the national team that saved itself,” said Di Natale. “Scoring two goals for your country is always great but Italy are in no way dependent on me.”
Buffon, meanwhile, was delighted with the result. “The defenders often reduce my work to the minimum – today I helped them,” he said. “But that’s what I’m between the posts for. It would have been more fair to lose this match.”
Gamberini, who dislocated his shoulder, and Grosso, who fractured two ribs, will not be available for Wednesday’s game but Lippi will not been calling up any replacements.
Midfielder Gennaro Gattuso is also a major doubt for Wednesday’s game
after injuring himself in training yesterday.
The AC Milan star was taken to hospital in an ambulance after falling into a hole between the two dugouts in a training game against fourth division Itala San Marco’s youth team, injuring his head and left wrist.
Tests at the Gorizia hospital revealed that Gattuso had dislocated and broken several bones in his wrist and he was immediately operated on.