Buffon saves Italy from early exit at Euro 2008

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Zurich, June 13: Gianluigi Buffon proved himself still the world No. 1 goalkeeper after a decade in reign here on Friday, saving a penalty from Romania striker Adriano Mutu to keep Italy alive after a 1-1 draw in Euro 2008 Group C.


The penalty was conceded by full back Christian Panucci after afoul in the box on Daniel Niculae on 81 minutes. Mutu opted to right-foot the ball toward the bottom right corner, but was perfectly punched by the Juventus' World Cup winning goalie. With the draw, Italy remained on the bottom of the Group of Death with one point, one goal and four goals conceded, before the later match in Bern between Holland and France.
The Dutch team is now clear at the top of the group with three points from Monday's shock 3-0 win over Italy, while Romania trailed on two points from two draws of as many matches and France the third with less goal conceded against Italy.


However, Friday's encounter with Romania should have been a victory for the reigning World Cup holders, as a controversial goal by Italian striker Luca Toni was blown off by the refereeing Norwegians.


Two minutes into the first half additional time, Toni was picked up by Del Piero's corner, broke away from the Romania defencing pack and kicked the ball to find the back of the rivals' net.


Norway referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, however, cancelled it for an offside position of Toni as the linesman raised the flag, despite the video replay showed it a wrong decision.


Both sides played aggressive, as the Italians headed into Friday's match with a bottom finish in the group after the disastrous 3-0 lose to the Netherlands in their opening match on Monday, while Romania tied France 0-0.


Forentina forward Mutu scored the breakthrough for Romania on an opportunist goal, as he right-footed a loose ball from Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta to the top left corner in the 55th minute.


From a long free kick of the Romanians, Zambrotta raised unchallenged, but instead of heading clear, the Italian right back tried to knock it back to keeper Gianluigi Buffon before finding it to fall short for Mutu to step in.


The world champions, however, just let Romania's 1-0 lead keep alive for less than a minute, as full back Christian Panucci, in a perfect position after Giorgio Chiellini headed skipper Alessandro Del Piero's corner past the crowd, left footed the ball from one-meter away to hit the bottom left corner.


Roberto Donadoni seemed desperate for another goal late in the second half, substituted midfielder Simone Perrotta with Antonio Cassano in the 57th minute before replacing Mauro Camoranesi with Massimo Ambrosini at 85, and put in Fabio Quagliarella for Del Piero after the veteran covered 77 minutes on the pitch, while Romania made changes in all three lines.


Italy, which holds a lackluster European Championship record, started out as tournament favorites to lift the trophy but are now staring at the prospect of elimination here, as the current group leading Dutch team is just ready to face France, who were also on one point from Monday's goalless draw with Romania.

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