NEWS
Friday November 11 2011
Balo and Pazzini take Poland

Italy earned their first ever win on Polish soil with Giampaolo Pazzini and Mario Balotelli’s magnificent debut strike, while Gigi Buffon saved a penalty.

The Azzurri performed some experiments in this friendly against one of the Euro 2012 hosts in the Wroclaw stadium that will be used in next summer’s tournament. Milan right-back Ignazio Abate was given his senior Italy debut and Giorgio Chiellini returned to the central defensive role, while Riccardo Montolivo was the trequartista behind Balotelli and Pazzini.

This was the first game since learning usual starting strikers Antonio Cassano (heart surgery) and Giuseppe Rossi (knee ligaments) would be out for six months, so their participation in Euro 2012 could well be in doubt.

Balotelli and Pazzini exchanged position regularly to confuse the opposition defence and leave no specific centre-forward to mark. Slawomir Peszko wasted by firing wide on the bounce from nine yards. Pazzini sprung the offside trap from a smart Claudio Marchisio through ball, but tried to cut back inside Damien Perquis and was closed down for a corner.

Italy should’ve taken the lead when a cross went past Pazzini to find an unmarked Daniele De Rossi down the right side of the penalty area, but the Roma man tried to pass it back into the middle rather than shoot for goal.

Poland went very close when a Ludovic Obraniak corner found Robert Lewandowski at the back post for a header on to the side-netting, as Buffon had flapped at the cross. Balotelli also nodded an Andrea Pirlo corner over the bar.

Balotelli had seemed to be doing very little, but he suddenly brought an amazing goal out of the hat. Marchisio won back possession and he was over 20 metres out and curled a stunning right-foot lob into the far top corner, spotting Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny off his line. As is his way, SuperMario celebrated his first senior goal for Italy without a smile, but by kissing the shirt.

Buffon did well to beat away a dangerous Lewandowski snapshot from a tight angle, though Montolivo should’ve passed to Pazzini rather than hit a meek attempt at Szczesny.

Pirlo and De Rossi made way for Thiago Motta and Simone Pepe in the second half, switching to a 4-3-3 with Balotelli on the left. Montolivo curled a fine cross for Balotelli to nod across the face of goal when he really should’ve hit the target.

At the other end, Eugen Polanski flashed his effort inches past the post from the D. Balotelli tried to score directly from a free kick down the left flank, testing Szczesny at the near stick.

Italy doubled their lead with a strange goal, as Balotelli’s rather powerful cross from the left grazed Pepe’s boot and Pazzini snuck in for the final touch to surprise Szczesny, as the ball dribbled into an empty net. If Pepe made contact, then Pazzini was offside.

Alessandro Matri came off the bench and almost immediately sprung the offside trap to go one-on-one with Szczesny, but the Arsenal goalkeeper parried with his trailing foot. From the corner, Szczesny also smothered a Balotelli free header.

Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna made his senior Azzurri debut, but Lewandowski had a good chance with his bullet header skimming the bar from eight yards.

Poland were awarded a penalty in the final minutes when Andrea Ranocchia went shoulder-to-shoulder with Lewandowski in mid-air and was a little late, going into his back. Blaszczykowski took the very central spot-kick, but it was well saved by Buffon.

Matri threatened a third in stoppages from Balotelli's cross-field pass, but over-stretched and hit the side-netting.

Poland 0-2 Italy

Scorers: Balotelli 30 (I), Pazzini 60 (I)

Missed penalty: Blaszczykowski 84 (P)

Poland: Szczesny; Piszczek, Perquis (Wasilewski 68), Glowacki, Wawrzyniak; Polanski (Matuszczyk 65), Murawski (Dudka 79); Blaszczykowski, Obraniak (Brozec 56), Peszko (Mierzejewski 65); Lewandowski

Italy: Buffon; Abate, Ranocchia, Chiellini, Criscito (Ogbonna 77); De Rossi (Pepe 46), Pirlo (Thiago Motta 46), Marchisio (Nocerino 61); Montolivo (Aquilani 61); Pazzini (Matri 61), Balotelli

Ref: Duhamel (Fra)

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