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Cassano magic sinks Northern Irish


Antonio Cassano

Antonio Cassano

Antonio Cassano

Nigel Worthington's Northern Ireland tenure ended in more disappointment as his side were comfortably beaten 3-0 by an Italy side inspired by Antonio Cassano.

Worthington, whose reign as manager ends with this game, was forced to pick a youthful side due to a series of withdrawals that left him two substitutes short and Cassano took full advantage, producing two wonderful goals to finish the Group C campaign with six.

Italy's third left a sour taste for another departing Northern Irishman, as veteran goalkeeper Maik Taylor's misunderstanding with Gareth McAuley resulted in a demoralising own-goal.

Andrew Little almost beat Gianluigi Buffon to a long free-kick as his defenders watched, while a poor backpass nearly handed David Healy a one-on-one. Giorgio Chiellini went close from a 19th-minute corner when he headed wide at the far post but when the goal did come, it was an altogether classier affair.

Daniele De Rossi lofted a delightful through ball to wrongfoot the back four, with Cassano the target, the AC Milan forward let the ball drop over his right shoulder and volleyed home from eight yards.

Andrea Pirlo's chip gave Cassano the sniff of a second but this time he could not repeat his earlier finish and the striker also had a penalty appeal against Ryan McGivern rejected.

Healy scrapped doggedly in a thankless lone striker's role but did manage to create a half chance for Steven Davis in the 49th minute only for the midfielder to run out of steam as he bore down on goal.

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Four minutes later it was 2-0 to Italy, Cassano lifting the tempo of a sedate move by taking aim and finding the bottom corner with a precision strike from 20 yards.

Taylor, unattached since his release by Birmingham, showed he was still sharp with a goal-saving parry from Riccardo Montolivo but there was further disappointment to come with 16 minutes remaining.

Federico Balzaretti had stolen in on the left of the penalty area and crossed along the face of goal, only for McAuley to bundle the ball past Taylor as both men attempted to clear.

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