Brave NI fall short in Italy
Northern Ireland put in a battling display before going down 3-0 to world champions Italy in Pisa.
Last Updated: 06/06/09 10:57pm
Northern Ireland put in a battling display before going down 3-0 to Italy in a friendly in Pisa on Saturday night.
Nigel Worthington's side held off the world champions until the 20th minute when Giuseppe Rossi hit a screamer from just outside the box and it went in off the post.
Substitute Pasquale Foggia doubled the advantage on 52 minutes when he latched onto a pass from Rossi, took the ball around Chris Casement and then chipped Jonathan Tuffey from just inside the box.
Soon afterwards, Tuffey brought down Giampaolo Pazzini for a penalty but pushed the striker's spot-kick onto the right post.
But substitute Sergio Pellissier scored on his debut with a great finish to make sure for Italy on 72 minutes.
The home side handed a debut to Davide Santon, who became the third-youngest player to ever represent the Azzurri at the age of 18 and five months.
He took it in his stride, though, with a promising run out of the defence early on with his first touch of the ball almost creating an early chance for Rossi.
Northern Ireland had set their stall out to defend with Casement and Colin Coates both making their debuts at the heart of the defence, and they were in for a torrid time.
A breakdown in communication between the pair allowed Gaetano D'Agostino's ball over the top to bisect them and give Pazzini the first chance of the game in the 17th minute, but Sampdoria striker volleyed over from the edge of the penalty area.
Rossi showed a better eye for goal minutes later when he received the ball from Giuseppe Mascara just outside the area and sent his shot inside Tuffey's near post for the opener.
A small protest from a group of Pisa fans after half an hour brought more life to a gloomy evening at the scarcely populated Arena Garibaldi.
They vented their anger at the Italian Football Association for refusing to move this fixture after violence had followed their team's bitter relegation to the third tier of Italian football last weekend, but they remained in a minority in a disappointingly low 8,200 crowd, which included around 80 hearty souls from Northern Ireland.
Italy continued to dominate, albeit struggling to really stamp their authority on the game.
Mascara had a shot saved by Tuffey, who had to use his legs to clear an effort from Riccardo Montolivo which had taken a deflection off Casement.
David Healy had a rare shot on goal shortly before the interval, but he was forced to leave the field injured seconds later and with his departure went Northern Ireland's hopes of breaking their 48-year goalscoring duck against the world champions.
Italy still wanted more, though, and substitute Foggia - one of four new entrants from Marcelo Lippi at half-time - opened his account with practically his first touch of the ball in the 52nd minute.
And it could hardly have been a better touch either as he chipped Rossi's delivery over Tuffey with great aplomb.
Italy peppered the Northern Ireland goal with a new-found confidence and now they were starting to find cracks in their armoury.
Pazzini skipped into the area to latch onto a pass from Nicola Legrottaglie, but he was brought down by Tuffey, who earned the only yellow card of the evening.
However, he stood up to palm Pazzini's penalty against the post with no Italy shirt following up to dispatch the loose ball.
Tuffey then made another save at full stretch to tip D'Agostino's dipping shot over the crossbar, although he was beaten by the Udinese midfielder's corner, which went directly onto the outside of his post.
Tuffey left the field shortly after diving bravely at the feet of Rossi, leaving Linfield's Alan Mannus to take his place.
He entered the field at the same time as Pellissier and was beaten just over 10 minutes later by the Chievo striker, who built on the confidence he had accrued in an impressive end to the Serie A season for his club, which included a hat-trick against Juventus, with an acrobatic goal inside Mannus' near post.
But Pellissier was then denied a second by Mannus, who out-nerved the Italy striker in a one-on-one situation 10 minutes from time.
Italy continued to search for a fourth, but were unable to find it as Mannus tipped Matteo Brighi's header over the crossbar.
Foggia then drilled a shot into the side-netting as Northern Ireland, whose coach Worthington used six of his seven substitutes, refused to be beaten again.
|Italy||Team Statistics||Northern Ireland|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||2|
|5||Shots off Target||4|