Romania holds Italy to 1-1 draw

Updated: 16 June 2008 09:46 IST

Gianluigi Buffon saved a late penalty from Adrian Mutu to give Italy a 1-1 draw with Romania on Friday at the European Championship.

ZURICH, Switzerland:

Gianluigi Buffon saved a late penalty from Adrian Mutu to keep World Cup champion Italy in the European Championship with a 1-1 draw against Romania on Friday.

Daniel Niculae was dragged down by Christian Panucci in the 80th minute, and a penalty was awarded. Buffon dived to his left and reached back with his hand to stop Mutu's shot, and the ball then deflected away off the goalkeeper's leg.

Mutu, who plays for Fiorentina, gave Romania the lead in the 55th minute following a defensive mistake by Gianluca Zambrotta. A long free kick by Gabriel Tamas was headed back toward the Italy goal by the defender, but Mutu was there to steal it and send a right-footed shot past the charging Buffon. Mutu's goal was his 29th in 63 appearances for Romania. He also led the team with six goals in qualifying.

It took the Italians only one minute to reply. Panucci scored his fourth goal in 55 internationals from close range after a corner kick was headed toward him by Giorgio Chiellini, Tamas missing a chance to clear the danger.

Romania has two points in Group C, while Italy, which lost to the Netherlands 3-0 in its opener, has one. The Italians, who would have been eliminated with a loss, now must beat France in their final group game to advance.

Both teams also came close to scoring in the first half.

Romania captain Cristian Chivu hit the post in the 20th when his long-range free kick deflected off Panucci, and Italy forward Luca Toni had a goal annulled for a controversial offside call in first-half injury time.

Italy changed virtually half its starting lineup from the Netherlands debacle, with the most noteworthy move being Alessandro Del Piero coming on alongside Toni in attack.

Simone Perrotta, Daniele De Rossi, Fabio Grosso and Giorgio Chiellini also moved into the lineup, while Antonio Di Natale, Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Barzagli and Marco Materazzi were all relegated to Italy's bench.

While still employing the same defensive tactics from its opening 0-0 draw with France, Romania had the first chance after only 25 seconds, with Mutu heading a cross from Paul Codrea high.

Italy didn't pose a threat until the ninth, when Del Piero headed wide from close range following a setup from Perrotta. Three minutes later, Grosso dribbled through Florentin Petre's legs as Italy began to organize itself and push up the left flank.

Mauro Camoranesi and Grosso each attempted early crosses to Toni, but they placed the ball a bit too high for the 1.93-meter (6-foot-4) striker.

Mutu strode through the Azzurri defense and forced Buffon to make a tough save in the 16th. Two minutes later, Gabriel Tamas put Buffon to the test again with a long, low free kick that the goalkeeper stretched to deflect.

With the momentum clearly in its favor, Romania then nearly scored in the 20th when Chivu's free kick hit the post.

A few seconds later, Razvan Rat and Mirel Radoi collided and Radoi was carried off the field with a bandage over his right eye, forcing Romania to bring on Nicolae Dica.

Camoranesi set up Toni again in the 27th as Italy continued its air attack, but the Bayern Munich forward's header landed a meter (yard) wide of the target.

Toni attempted to become the assist man when he headed over to Perrotta in the 39th, but Codrea made an expert tackle directly in front of the goal.

Toni had two more chances late in the first half, but Romania goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont saved both at the last possible instant. Lobont was Toni's teammate when the pair were with Fiorentina in 2006.

In first-half injury time, Toni finally found the target with a header but the goal was annulled for offside. Toni scored 39 goals for Bayern Munich last season, but his form at this tournament has been a source of debate.

Lobont continued his stellar play in the second half, swiping a high ball away from Toni in the 48th.

Mutu's 25-meter (yard) attempt was calmly collected by Buffon in the 54th, and the Fiorentina forward scored a minute later, coming through on coach Victor Piturca's promise that "the real Mutu" would show itself against Italy.

Defender Dorin Goian was cautioned for throwing the ball into the air out of frustration in the 73rd and will miss Romania's final group game against the Netherlands.

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