Italy capped a very good week in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying by beating ten-man Georgia 3-1 in Tbilisi.
After Georgi Shashiashvili cancelled out Daniele De Rossi's opener for the Azzurri, Roberto Donadoni's team took control with the sending-off on the hour of Georgia midfielder Jaba Kankava, and Mauro Camoranesi restored the lead before Simone Perrotta sealed the points.
All guns blazing
Italy had taken only one point from their first two games, but followed up their weekend defeat of Ukraine with a second successive victory. With Donadoni bringing Alessandro Nesta, Perrotta, Camoranesi and Antonio Di Natale into the side tonight, they came out with all guns blazing, although that attacking intent was stymied by a Georgia offside trap which caught the visitors five times early on.
The world champions eventually broke through on 18 minutes, De Rossi scoring with a long-range strike that bounced awkwardly in front of Georgia keeper Georgi Lomaia. When the Italians sat on their advantage, Klaus Toppmöller's team came forward and with their first meaningful foray, equalised. A ball was half-cleared as far as Shashiashvili who returned it with interest past Gianluigi Buffon.
In reply, Luca Toni blazed wide at the far post, before squandering a golden chance moments later after Gianluca Zambrotta found him unmarked inside the area, failing even to test Lomaia. Nonetheless, Donadoni and company could have been trailing at half-time, with Zurab Khizanishvili rattling the far post having already beaten Buffon.
Although Italy began the second half brightly, Georgia missed another opportunity when Kankava prompted a routine stop from Buffon. A minute later, the same player received his marching orders, collecting a second caution for a challenge on Andrea Pirlo. It was a bitter blow for the hosts and Italy took full advantage.
They were in front on 63 minutes through Camoranesi's header at the far post from Di Natale's cross. Toppmoller's team had little time to react before it was 3-1, Perrotta profiting from a poor clearance by the Georgia defence to rifle past Lomaia. Late on, De Rossi could have scored again but his free-kick fizzed just past the post. While Italy race to seven points from four games, Georgia remain on three, before both sides resume their campaigns against Scotland in March.