For the first time in history, an Italian manager faced his former team.
Irish Invade Bari
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, 9,000 Irish supporters made the long trip to Southern Italy. Apparently, they were welcomed with open arms in bars and beaches around the city.
Fans Poke Fun at Mister Lippi
Before the game, there was an interesting banner in the stands:
"Lippi, look at your Facebook account. Cassano requested to be friends."
Azzurri Starting XI: 4-2-1-3
Grosso, Chiellini, Cannavaro (captain), Grosso
De Rossi, Brighi
Pazzini, Iaquinta, Pepe
Republic of Ireland Starting XI: 4-4-2
McShane, Dunne, O'Shea, Kilbane
Keogh, Whelan, Andrews, S. Hunt
Doyle, Keane (captain)
Referee: Mr. Stark of Germany.
There was a great atmosphere in Bari, but it was soon challenged. After three minutes, Giampaolo Pazzini jumped and elbowed John O'Shea in the face. It left the Manchester United man bleeding, and Mr. Stark showed the red card. The elbow appeared to be involuntary and the call, somewhat harsh. The Azzurri would have to play with 10 men for the rest of the game.
The Irish pushed forward in an attempt to seize the opportunity, and the Italians bunkered down in a determined fashion. But after 10 minutes, the game changed again. Pirlo passed to Grosso on the left wing. His short pass found Iaquinta in front of the goal, unmarked, and he didn't disappoint the Azzurri faithful.
The goal gave Italy confidence, and seemed to disorient the Irish for a few minutes. But they continued to push forward aggressively. In the 21st minute, Mister Trapattoni sent on another striker, Caleb Folan, for Keogh.
The only real Irish shot on goal (Robbie Keane had shot wide earlier) came in the 41st minute. Steve Hunt volleyed perfectly from the half moon, but Gigi Buffon swatted the ball away with one hand as it was heading under the crossbar to save Italy.
In tactical moves, Mister Lippi brought on Angelo Palombo for Andrea Pirlo, and Dossena for Pepe. It was obvious he wanted to hold the lead by taking off two attack minded players. The rain, which began in the first half, became much heavier. The Irish attacked in numbers, but the defensive organization, even with a man short by Italy, was extremely efficient.
But in the 87th minute, the Irish seige on the Italian goal was rewarded. Robbie Keane scored the equalizer to break Azzurri hearts. A long ball in the area by Shay Given was headed by Folan. Keane turned and quicky shot past a lunging Chiellini to beat Buffon at the corner of the net.
This was a suffered result for the Azzurri, and two points lost that may loom large down the road.
Marcello Lippi After the Game
"It (red card by Pazzini) didn't exist. At this level, you can't leave a team with 10 men for almost 90 minutes...Source: Radio RAI.
A great effort by all of our guys. We were very tired in the end. But it's all well, anyway."
"I jumped looking to play the ball and not the man. The referee made a great error."The Irish Independent
Pazzini from the video.
"An Irish team comes to Italy, enjoys a monopoly on possession and, despite only grabbing a late equaliser, can feel somewhat disappointed that they came away with just a solitary point. It must have been April Fool's Day alright."For their game report, please click here.
Group 8 World Cup Qualification Table
- Since 1947, Italy has never lost a game in Bari.
- Both managers adapted to Ireland's one man advantage. Trapattoni brought on another striker early in the first half, and Lippi only went into a significant defensive shell in the second half.
- My Man of the Match: Gigi Buffon.
- Both teams will meet again in October in the next to last fixture of the qualification round.