Italy reached the UEFA European Championship semi-finals for the third time with a convincing victory over a depleted Romania team further handicapped by Gheorghe Hagi's dismissal in his last game for the country.
First-half strikes by Francesco Totti and Filippo Inzaghi put the Azzurri in control and when Hagi was given his marching orders with less than an hour played, it was an open invitation to allow their opponents to do what they do best: play out for victory.
Both teams began nervously but it was Italy who fashioned the first chance when Demetrio Albertini, Totti and Stefano Fiore combined fluently on the left to set up Inzaghi, but the striker's first-time shot flew just wide. Romania were enjoying more possession but Italy's movement on the break was sharp and in the 27th minute they might have taken the lead. Totti found Inzaghi in space on the right and his cross was met on the half-volley by the unmarked Fiore; his effort was off target.
Moments later Miodrag Belodedici stopped Inzaghi in his tracks as he burst into the Romania area, but when an Italy corner was cleared only as far as Fiore on the edge of the area the Udinese Calcio man chipped in a delightful ball. Totti beat the offside trap and placed his shot carefully beyond Bogdan Stelea.
Hagi went agonisingly close to an equaliser, lobbing Francesco Toldo only for the ball to rebound off the post. As the game opened up Totti lifted one over the bar and the impressive Constantin Gâlcă volleyed a whisker wide for Romania. Then, two minutes before the break, Albertini threaded the ball through for Inzaghi to race clear and beat Stelea.
Shortly after the interval another Gâlcă effort cleared the bar and Hagi was booked for a foul on Antonio Conte. Romania brought on Ioan Ganea for Moldovan and the VfB Stuttgart forward might have scored from Dorinel Munteanu's pass had Gianluca Pessotto not come to Italy's rescue. Yet nothing could save Emeric Ienei's side when, on 59 minutes, Hagi was shown a second yellow card, this time for diving.
Hagi's illustrious international career therefore came to a sad end, though Romania would not go down without a fight. Munteanu fired just over, Liviu Ciobotariu's shot cannoned away off Gianluca Zambrotta on the goal line and Toldo dived bravely at the feet of Adrian Mutu. There were chances, too, for Italy as Inzaghi hit the foot of the post with only Stelea to beat and then pulled a second effort well wide.
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