Italy face a UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ quarter-final with holders Germany after two late goals gave them second place in Group C while ending Russian hopes.
Russia had the best of the chances in Helsinki, hitting the woodwork twice in a first-half minute, but with 13 minutes left Gabbiadini put Italy ahead and Tatiana Zorri's cute free-kick doubled the lead at the death. Sweden drew 1-1 with England to win the group a point ahead of the Azzurre, meaning Italy take on the champions on Friday in Lahti.
Italy were aware at kick-off that a point would take them through while Russia knew a three-goal win would guarantee progress and Igor Shalimov's side began in ambitious manner, Olga Petrova crossing for Oleysa Kurochkina to force Anna Maria Picarelli into a point-blank double save. Elena Morozova, as lively down the right as in the 3-2 defeat by England, got to the byline and centred for Kurochkina, but Picarelli blocked her first effort and, slightly rushed, the striker sliced the rebound over.
At the other end, Elvira Todua had been restored in goal in place of Elena Kochneva and showed her ability with a great stop when Patrizia Panico was sent clear by Alessia Tuttino, before later also tipping a Sara Gama effort over the bar. Picarelli still had work to do, collecting an Elena Fomina header, but the goalkeeper required the assistance of the woodwork when Savchenkova's angled drive rebounded off the post to Petrova, whose shot rattled the crossbar. Petrova then broke through but lifted the ball above both the advancing Picarelli and the goal.
At half-time Russia introduced midfielder Ekaterina Sochneva and within seven minutes she had made a telling contribution. Todua came to claim a Russian free-kick but the ball squirmed loose and found its way to Elisabetta Tona, whose shot was stopped on the line by the feet of the substitute. Russia, with striker Elena Danilova on after the hour, were now going for broke and left space for Melania Gabbiadini to break through, with Todua making a save.
Danilova forced a diving Picarelli stop, and Morozova dragged a shot past the far post, but it was Gabbiadini who broke the deadlock, pouncing on the rebound after Todua's brilliant one-handed save from Tona's header. In added time, substitute Zorri's free-kick sneaked in to double the Azzurre's advantage, leaving Russia without a win in nine finals games in this tournament. Their attacking flair deserved at least a point, however, especially as they had previously managed to stun England by taking a quick two-goal lead.