World Champions Italy came back from a goal down do beat a spirited 10 man USA side by three goals to one another great game of football at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on Monday night.
The crowed was once again amazing with a very cosmopolitan turn out of black, white, Indian, American and even Asian fans all joining together in celebration of the beautiful game.
The game itself turned out to be a great spectacle with both teams making their intentions clear from the kick-off. Italian centre back Nicola Legrottaglie had the first real chance of match when he found himself with a free header inside the box from a set-piece but the defender failed to hit the target as his effort went wide of the goal.
The USA then had a great chance to open the scoring through Michael Bradley who created some space for himself but with only Gianluigi Buffon to beat the midfielder fired in a tame shot which Buffon comfortably saved. Moments later Jozy Altidore failed to score from a similar position to the one Bradley found him in, but the big striker scuffed his shot which allowed Buffon to make another easy save. This was clearly not going to be a goalless game.
The match was then turned on its head when the referee gave Ricardo Clark a red card for a foolish lunge on Genarro Gattuso. It was a very harsh decision from the referee and a yellow card would have been more appropriate as there was no intent from the midfielder. This meant that USA had to play against the World Champions with 10 men for the better part of an hour!
Italy then a had a goal disallowed when left-back Jonathan Bornstein stabbed the ball into his own net from outside the area but the assistant’s flag was up for offside even though the Italian player never actually touched the ball.
Lucky escape for USA but the Americans didn’t allow their heads to drop and were rewarded for their positive style of play when Altidore earned them a penalty in the 40th minute after the striker cut inside Chillieni, forcing the Juventus centre back to foul him. Landon Donovan stepped up and coolly sent Buffon the wrong way to hand the USA a 1-0 lead at the break.
Italy came back strong in the second half after the introduction of Riccardo Montolivo and Rossi for Marco Camoranesi and Gattuso as Marcelo Lippi added more firepower to his attack. Within minutes of coming on, American-born Guissepi Rossi pulled Italy level after he stole the ball on the halfway line before running at the USA defence to unleash an unstoppable left footed drive from 35 yards out! That strike from the former Manchester United striker will definitely be a contender for goal of the tournament.
The Azzurri then doubled their lead with an even better strike from Roma’s Danielle De Rossi. The midfielder collecting the ball from about 40 yards out to fire in a dipping shot which Howard failed to keep out. The USA may consider themselves unlucky to have conceded two cracking goals like that after all their hard work, but they were still in it up until the 90th minute when Rossi grabbed his second goal of the math with another beautiful goal. This time AC Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo was the creator, skillfully beating the right back before chipping the ball to Rossi who fired home an unstoppable volley from 10 yard out.
The game finished 3-1 but the score line was slightly misleading after a spirited performance from the Americans.
This really is the festival of Champions...