Penalty save keeps Italy in the championships

Italy 1 Romania 1

Italy 1 Romania 1

Italy live to fight another day at the European Championships thanks to a late penalty save from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon against Romania.

Fiorentina striker Adrian Mutu had put the Romanians in front in the 57th minute only for Christian Panucci to equalise straightaway for the world champions, who suffered a 3-0 humiliation to Holland in their opening Group C game.

Panucci then brought Daniel Niculae down five minutes from time to concede the penalty, but Mutu’s effort from the spot was saved by Buffon.

The result means that Italy must now win their last game against France on Tuesday to stand any chance of progressing.

Italy did feel hard done by the officials, especially after Norwegian referee Tom Henning ruled out Luca Toni’s goal on the stroke of half-time for a non-existent offside.

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.

Among those omitted were World Cup-winners Marco Materazzi and Gennaro Gattuso, who looked sluggish in Bern on Monday.

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.

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 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.

Romania goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont made a one-handed save to deny Toni’s header from Alessandro Del Piero’s corner having previously anticipated Giorgio Chiellini inside the box.

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 back-pass towards Buffon was intercepted by a determined Mutu, who fired past the goalkeeper to silence the Azzurri fans.

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 fired into the back of the net.

The goal inspired the Italians, who surged forward more aggressively but failed to find the finishing touch.

In the 73rd minute, Grosso made a vital tackle on substitute Banel Nicolita as he threatened to break clear.

At the other end, Lobont made a spectacular save from De Rossi’s flying header.

Italy continued to surge forward but their efforts to clinch their first win in Swiss soil proved no avail.

And they have Buffon to thank for keeping their Euro 2008 hopes alive, after he kept out Mutu’s late penalty with an agile save which saw the ball rebound off hand and foot before heading out for corner.

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