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Italy held by Austria on Lippi´s return

SoccerNews in Serie A, World Cup 21 Aug 2008


Marcello Lippi started his second stint on the Italy bench in unspectacular fashion here on Wednesday as the world champions were held 2-2 by Austria in a friendly.

A lucky Alberto Gilardino effort and a dreadful own goal by substitute keeper Ramazan Ozcan earned Italy a draw after Emanuel Pogatetz and Marc Janko had put the Austrians 2-0 up.

But the Azzurri were vulnerable at the back, wasted several chances in attack and the performance suggested that 2006 World Cup-winner Lippi has a lot to do after being recalled to replace Roberto Donadoni following their disappointing Euro 2008 campaign.

“It was beautiful to be back, a bit less to be 2-0 down,” Lippi told Rai television.

“There was a little lack of attention, in part because, while they might not be a great team, they have great physical and athletic qualities and they showed them.

“Then we started to speed things up, especially in the second half. We fixed the result, which is always important.”

The coach confirmed his intention to build a team based on players from his 2006 squad by fielding nine of them in his starting line-up, including Fiorentina forward Gilardino, who ended a nine-month absence from international action.

They made a bright start, with full back Gianluca Zambrotta forcing a good save out of Austria keeper Alexander Manninger with a powerful shot from outside the box and Gilardino failing to head home from short range after a fine cross from Fabio Grosso.

But unfancied Austria, who were knocked out of Euro 2008 at the group stage, took the lead with their first chance in the 15th minute, when defender Pogatetz beat Gianluigi Buffon with a firm left-footed diagonal strike.

Gilardino wasted a great opportunity to equalize quickly, prodding an attempted chip into Manninger's hands when clean through on goal.

Italy seemed to lose their way and the Austrians' doubled their advantage in the 39th thanks to striker Janko who spun around well after a throw-in to fire a shot past his marker Andrea Barzagli and Buffon and into the top corner.

The Azzurri pulled one back on the stroke of half time after Austria defender Martin Stranzl directed an Antonio Di Natale cross towards his own goal and Gilardino got the last touch with his chest.

Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero missed a fine chance nine minutes after the break, curling his shot high and wide with the net gaping before Ozcan spectacularly punched a Zambrotta cross into his own net in the 66th.

Ozcan redeemed himself a little in the closing stages, producing a fine diving save to keep out a Nicola Legrottaglie header as Italy pressed for the winning goal.

“We went after the win until the end, passing the ball around quickly,” Lippi added.

“It wasn't easy against such a physical side. They were very tall, they only conceded us the flanks.”

The match was an important test for Lippi's side before they begin the defence of their world title in next month's South Africa 2010 qualifiers away in Cyprus and at home to Georgia.

Austria, now under former Czech Republic coach Karel Brueckner, take on France in their opening World Cup qualifier in Vienna on September 6.


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