MODENA - Italy cruised to a 3-0 win over a
weakened Estonia thanks to goals from a potent new-look striking
duo to stay five points clear in Euro 2012 Group C on Friday.
The Azzurri's front pairing of Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio
Cassano hit it off immediately with the pint-sized forwards
scoring in the 21st and 39th minutes respecitvely with similar
angled drives to give Italy a cushion at halftime.
Fourth-placed Estonia, who had taken four points off Serbia
in their past two games, rarely threatened as an exciting Italy
side scored a well-taken third goal after 68 minutes through
substitute Giampaolo Pazzini.
Italy's fifth win in their six competitive matches under
coach Cesare Prandelli put them on 16 points ahead of
second-placed Slovenia and eight points clear of Serbia in third
with both those teams having played a game more.
"We kept our concentration and played (all) the football,"
coach Cesare Prandelli told RAI television.
"We're not there yet but Italy are growing in confidence. We
can get even better though by being more daring and keeping the
ball on the ground to make better use of our quality players."
The former Fiorentina manager added that it was an important
performance by the national team in the wake of the latest
match-fixing scandal to beset Italian football.
"We can help (the situation) by showing our commitment and
enthusiasm and by transmitting the right values," he said.
On a cool night in Modena, Italy's diminutive strike duo
began the game on fire, pulling the Estonia defence around with
their pace and clever movement.
After 14 minutes, Rossi sent Cassano through with an astute
pass and only goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko's feet stopped the
forward's shot finding the net.
Five minutes later and Cassano returned the compliment only
for Rossi to be thwarted by Pareiko's body.
A rampant Italy did make the breakthrough soon after though
as Cassano squared the ball to Rossi who, in acres of space,
rode two challenges before finding the near corner of the net
with a fierce left-foot shot from 12 metres.
Rossi then struck the post with another crisp left-footer
before Cassano, picking up a flicked pass from Riccardo
Montolivo, shielded the ball inside the box and fired home
right-footed in off the far post.
The four-times world champions continued to press in the
second half and after Andrea Pirlo struck the post with a low
free-kick after 65 minutes, substitute Pazzini grabbed the third,
running onto an exquisite chip from Montolivo to sidefoot home.
Without key midfielder Aleksandr Dmitrijev and Konstantin
Vassiljev, their top scorer in qualifying, Estonia struggled to
get beyond the halfway-line, with late shots from Raio Piiroja
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