Italy held to draw in Euro 2008 qualifier

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> World Cup champion Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Lithuania on Saturday in European Championship qualifying on Saturday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:36 IST
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World Cup champion Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Lithuania on Saturday in European Championship qualifying, and Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands struggled to beat underdog opponents. Lithuania captain Tomas Danilevicius gave his team a 21st-minute lead in Naples, Italy. The hosts, who won the World Cup less than two months ago, needed Filippo Inzaghi's 30th-minute goal to salvage a point in Group B. A deflected shot from Lukas Podolski enabled Germany to edge Ireland 1-0 in Stuttgart, the Czech Republic needed a last-minute winner for a 2-1 victory over Wales and a goal by defender Joris Mathijsen helped the Netherlands squeeze past Luxembourg 1-0. There were no such scares for World Cup runner-up France or England, however, while defending champion Greece began with a 1-0 victory at Moldova. The French cruised to a 3-0 victory at Georgia while England outplayed Andorra 5-0 with Peter Crouch taking his scoring record to 10 goals in his last nine games. Italy's surprise draw means it's in fourth place behind Scotland, Georgia and France, who all have three points. France coach Raymond Domenech feared the World Cup runners-up might slip up in Tblisi against a Georgia lineup, which crushed the Faeroe Islands 6-0 in its opening Group B game. But after Florent Malouda and Louis Saha had put his team ahead 1-0 in the first 16 minutes, Domenech had no need to worry. An own-goal by Malkhaz Asatiani in the 46th completed the victory. In another Group B game, Kris Boyd scored two goals to help Scotland to a 5-0 lead by the 38th minute on the way to a 6-0 victory over the Faeroe Islands. The Faeroes have now conceded 12 goals in two matches. Easy win for England Co-strikers Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe scored two goals each in England's predictably easy win over Andorra at Old Trafford in Group E. Steven Gerrard also hit the target and Owen Hargreaves twice hit the post as England repeatedly opened up the Andorra side, which often had all 11 players behind the ball. The comfortable victory was another positive for England coach Steve McClaren, who took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after England's disappointing World Cup performance. Including beating Greece 4-0 in a friendly last month, England has scored nine goals in two shutouts. In the same group, Israel won 1-0 at Estonia with Roberto Collatti scoring in the seventh minute. The games were among 19 qualifying matches for the European Championship, which takes place in Austria and Switzerland in two years. Although two teams make it from each of the eight groups, it's going to be a tough journey for many. Germany struggle Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given defied Germany with top quality saves from Miroslav Klose and Podolski. He was unlucky to be beaten when Podolski's shot, following a free kick, took a wild deflection off Robbie Keane and flew inside the opposite post for the only goal of the game. The Czech Republic was struggling to score against Wales in Teplice until substitute David Lafata came on with 15 minutes to go and scored within a minute. The goal came seconds after Craig Bellamy had hit the Czech post. Wales leveled through an own-goal by Martin Jiranek in the 85th, but Lafata struck again with a minute to go. Despite their victories, both the Germans and Czechs are behind Slovakia on goal difference because the Slovaks crushed Cyprus 6-1 with striker Marek Mintal scoring two goals and setting up two more. A surprise winner at Euro 2004, Greece began with a routine victory. Although Angelos Basinas sent a first-half penalty over the bar in Chisinau, Nikos Lyberopoulos scored the winner in the 77th. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose career appeared to be over when he was sidelined for almost two years with a serious knee injury, scored twice in Norway's 4-1 Group C victory over Hungary in Budapest. Another comparative veteran, Jari Litmanen, scored twice in Finland's 3-1 victory at Poland in a Group A game. In the same group, Serbia edged Azerbaijan 1-0 thanks to a strike by Nikola Zigic in the 72nd. Serbia's first official game as a nation since its political split from Montenegro was played without spectators at the sprawling Red Star stadium in Belgrade. That was because of a one-match UEFA ban for fan riots during Serbia's World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina last year. Mathijsen scrambled in a corner from Robin van Persie for the only goal the Netherlands could score in Luxembourg. Fortunately for the Dutch, their two main Group G rivals, Romania and Bulgaria, drew 2-2 with Martin Petrov scoring twice for the visiting Bulgarians, who were 2-0 down. Belarus and Albania also finished 2-2. Eidur Gudjohnsen was on target as Iceland scored three first-half goals to beat host Northern Ireland 3-0 in Group F. (AP)

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