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Lacklustre Italy held at home by stubborn Romania

Lacklustre Italy held at home by stubborn Romania

Italy

BOLOGNA (Reuters) – Italy conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 with Romania in an international friendly on Tuesday, as doubts remained about their title-winning credentials ahead of Euro 2016.

The home side fell behind to Bogdan Stancu’s eighth-minute opener during an uninspiring first half, but equalised after 55 minutes when Claudio Marchisio scored a penalty after Eder had been brought down by Dragos Grigore.

Romania have not lost since June 2014 and, despite going 2-1 behind when substitute Manolo Gabbiadini scored his first Italy goal with a close-range header in the 65th, they extended their unbeaten run when Florin Andone equalised in the 88th minute after an error from goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Romania v Italy
Romania’s Florin Andone celebrates after scoring. Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

The visitors, urged on by pockets of Romanian supporters around the ground, poured forward in the dying stages as they looked to secure an unlikely victory, but a shell-shocked Italy held on to avoid their second defeat in a week.

“We are disappointed that we didn’t win because of a goal conceded two minutes from time,” Antonio Conte told Rai Sport.

“We were tense at the start because we conceded so early and then as time wore on shook it off. I’m convinced the lads gave their all, played with intensity, tempo and did everything needed to win.”

The Italian defence was exposed in Friday’s 3-1 friendly loss away to Belgium, and Antonio Conte’s side were again uncertain from the start.

Gianluigi Buffon made a smart save to thwart Gabriel Torje early on but the Azzurri fell behind moments later when Stancu stole the ball after a defensive mix-up between Matteo Darmian and Andrea Barzagli on the edge of the box and rifled home.

Italy have often been drab and uninspiring under Conte’s leadership and, without midfielders Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti, they appeared to lack the tools to take control of the game and to fashion dangerous chances.

The contest was transformed in the frantic 10-minute spell at the start of the second half with Marchisio’s penalty and Gabbiadini’s maiden international goal.

However, Andone’s late equaliser — coming after Sirigu had parried Vlad Chiriches’s header into the forward’s path — was a fitting end to a troubling international week for Italy.

“I was already angry with the result in Belgium and once again we failed to get the result we deserved,” said Conte. “Hopefully it can be a learning experience.”

(Writing by Ed Dove, Editing by Steve Tongue)

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