Euro 2008: Buffon Saves Italy's Hopes

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Euro 2008: Buffon Saves Italy's Hopes

Coming into Friday, Italy knew they had to claim at least a point against Romania, or their Euro 2008 campaign would come to an abrupt end.

Roberto Donadoni changed almost half of his starting line-up from the 3-0 loss to the Netherlands on Monday.  The Azzurri boss inserted Fabio Grosso, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perrotta, and Alessandro Del Piero, who took over as captain.

The changes made by the Azzurri coach were noticeable right from the start, as Italy were on the offensive with Del Piero and Luca Toni on the end of numerous crosses from Grosso on the left.

Romania quickly answered Italy's chances with one of their own by Adrian Mutu, who got behind the Italian defense. His close range strike was saved nicely by Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Buffon was called upon once again just minutes later on a daisy cutting strike by Gabriel Tamas.

Just moments later, Romania were denied not by Buffon, but by the right upright, after a Christian Chivu free kick took a deflection off Christian Panucci before slamming against the post with Buffon completelty beaten.

It seemed this was what Italy needed to get things going again and counter Romania's attack.

Italy turned again to crosses from Grosso and Mauro Camoranesi from the left flank, with Del Piero and Toni coming within inches getting Italy's first goal of the tournament.  Toni thought he had a goal off of a cross, but Romania keeper Bogdon Labont made a fine save to keep the ball out of the net.

In injury time, Italy finally thought they hit the back of the net, with Toni on the end of a brilliant ball from Gianluca Zambrotta, but the goal was called off after the linesman called for offside.

However, replay showed that when Zambrotta made contact with the ball, Italy was onside, meaning the goal should have been allowed.

The second half started much like the first, with Italy crashing down the flank and Romania sitting back and waiting to counter-attack.

The counter attack finally worked to their advantage as Romania took advantage of Zambrotta's failed attempt to head the ball back to Buffon.  Mutu pounced on the lose ball and beat an onrushing Buffon to put his team up 1-0 and put Italy into complete shock.

But Italy fought right back as they answered Romania's opener just 60 seconds later, as Panucci put away a Giorgio Chiellini header off of a De Rossi corner to equal the score at 1-1 and keep Italy's hopes alive.

The game finally calmed down for a few moments as both teams made tactical changes to try and get things going for their respective sides.

Italy seemed to have beaten the Romanian defense in the 75th minute on a De Rossi diving header, but Labont was up to the task again, making a fantastic close-range save to keep the score level.

Just minutes later there was even more controversy as Dica was brought down in the box by Panucci, with the official unsure to what to call after he blew the whistle.  With a penalty finally called, Mutu stepped up to the spot and stared down his former Juventus teammate Buffon.

However, it was Buffon who was up to the task, saving the penalty with both his right hand and then taking a deflection off his foot.

In the end the score was level at 1-1.  Italy will need a little help going into their final game against France.  Romania have two points and face a high-flying Dutch side in the final game of the group stage.

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