Two goals from Inka Grings steered holders Germany to a comfortable victory over Italy on Friday and a place in the semi-finals of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™.
Germany, who will now meet Norway at Helsinki Football Stadium on Monday for a place in the final, were given a fourth-minute lead by the tournament's leading scorer and never looked back. Grings struck again from close range within two minutes of the restart and the six-time European champions were largely untroubled, despite Patrizia Panico pulling a goal back for Italy in the 63rd minute and threatening with a last-gasp header. The only bad news for Germany was a knee injury to defender Ariane Hingst, who will be a doubt for Monday when they travel to Helsinki to meet a side they have already beaten 4-0 in the group stage, as well as in the 2005 final.
Grings gave Germany the perfect start, collecting a squared pass from Melanie Behringer on the edge of the area before swivelling round to send a daisy-cutter into the bottom left hand corner. To their credit, Italy shrugged off that setback and worked hard to keep Silvia Neid's side in check, despite struggling to counter the creative drive of captain Birgit Prinz around the penalty area.
Birgit played in Kim Kulig with a deft flick, though the midfielder's shot was smothered by the outrushing Anna Maria Picarelli, and Germany's greatest ever player later arrowed a low angled shot just wide of the right-hand post. For their part, Italy coped with the pressure but never really threatened the German defence, Alessia Tuttino's tame effort from outside the area posing no problem to Nadine Angerer.
If Germany were quick out of the blocks in the first half they were even sharper in the second, with substitute Simone Laudehr sending over a cross from the left flank which took a deflection off Marta Carissimi and left Grings clear to prod the ball home from point-blank range. Her fourth of the finals made the FCR 2001 Duisburg forward the leading candidate for the adidas Golden Boot award.
Panico sets in
Italy again refused to buckle and were rewarded when Melania Gabbiadini led the Azzurre on the break before slipping the ball through for Panico to beat Angerer with a left-footed finish. Germany soon regained control and only a brilliant save by Picarelli denied Grings a hat-trick in the closing stages, with Angerer then producing an even finer stop in added time to keep out Panico's powerful diving header.