Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland beat Italy in Liège friendly

Italy 0-2 Republic of Ireland: Giovanni Trapattoni had plenty to savour as his Republic of Ireland side beat his native Italy 2-0 in a friendly in Liège last night. Keith Andrews and Simon Cox got the goals as an experimental Republic team enjoyed only their second ever win over the Azzurri.

Trapattoni spent four years in charge of Italy between 2000 and 2004 and returned to haunt his former side as Ireland received a welcome boost to their confidence ahead of September's vital European Championship qualifiers against Slovakia and Russia.

Only Keith Andrews and Stephen Hunt of the 11 men who started the 2-0 victory in Macedonia on Saturday were retained by Trapattoni, while Italy's Cesare Prandelli also shuffled his side with only Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo and Giuseppe Rossi surviving from the team which defeated Estonia 3-0 at the weekend.

Italy enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges at a rainy Maurice Dufrasne Stadium, Giampaolo Pazzini missing a good chance. However the Irish took the lead nine minutes before half-time when Hunt rolled a free-kick to Andrews 25 yards out and the Blackburn midfielder took a touch to wrongfoot the Italian defence before firing low past goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano.

After the break Italy remained on top without managing to fashion a clear-cut chance to equalise and substitute Sebastian Giovinco's 86th-minute free-kick, which only just cleared the crossbar, was as close as they came.

Ireland, whose previous win over Italy was at the 1994 World Cup finals in New York, wrapped up a famous victory much to the delight of the fans who had made the journey to Belgium in the final minute of normal time when Stephen Ward sent Hunt away down the left and he skipped past Alessandro Gamberini before crossing for Cox to slide home a second goal.

In last night's Euro 2012 qualifiers, Germany maintained their 100 per cent record with a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan in Baku. Goals from Mesut Ozil and Mario Gomez put Joachim Löw's side 2-0 up at half-time and though Murad Huseynov pulled one back for the home side in the 89th minute, Bayer Leverkusen's André Schürrle made the game safe with the Germans' third in added time.

Sweden closed the gap on Group E leaders the Netherlands to three points with a 5-0 thrashing of Finland in Solna. Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench to hit a hat-trick, with Kim Kallstrom and Emir Bajrami getting the Swedes other goals.

Finally, Faroe Islands, coached by the former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr, earned their first competitive win in two years when they beat Estonia 2-0 in Toftir, with both sides having a man sent off.

Belfast Telegraph

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