Ottawa Citizen

Italy plays blame game

Donadoni rips referee after draw

- BY ANGUS MACKINNON

ZURICH •

Italy coach Roberto Donadoni has hit out at Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo after a 1-1 draw yesterday with Romania left his side on the brink of eliminatio­n from Euro 2008.

A 1-1 draw left the Italians bottom of group C and no longer masters of their own destiny. Even if they beat France in their final match, the world champions will be going home early if Romania beat the already-qualified Netherland­s in its final match.

On yesterday’s evidence, that is a distinct possibilit­y, particular­ly as the Dutch, already certain of winning group C after thrashing France 4-1, are certain to rest key players.

Only Gianluigi Buffon’s late penalty save from Adrian Mutu prevented the Italians from going down to defeat against a spirited Romanian side that took four points out of six against the Dutch in qualifying for the finals.

The scale of the disarray in the Italian camp was underlined by the fact that Donadoni felt the need to make five changes from the side that had lost 3-0 to Holland in its opening match.

But the coach neverthele­ss refused to criticize his players over their failure to get the victory they needed, preferring instead to launch a scarcely-justified broadside against the Norwegian officials that, as a good example of creating a distractio­n from reality, suggested he might have a future as a political spin doctor.

“I am not used to discussing the referee’s performanc­e in detail, but this was not his finest day,” Donadoni said in post-match comments that were distinctly measured in comparison to the tirade he unleashed to more receptive audiences on Italian television.

Despite admitting he had not seen the incident clearly, Donadoni suggested Ovrebo had made a “gross” error in waving off a Luca Toni goal for offside in first-half stoppage time.

The Italian coach may also have been unhappy when Ovrebo awarded Romania a late penalty when Christian Panucci and Adrian Mutu tussled for a cross.

But as the resulting spot kick was saved, that decision did not affect the outcome of the match.

The under-pressure Italian coach added: “We knew Romania would be a team to be reckoned with and we suffered at times, but I’m pleased with our performanc­e.

“We were sorry for hurting so many Italian fans after the first game and we are sorry in a way tonight because we did not get the three points we wanted to take.

“But I think Italy played better than Romania.”

Romanian coach Victor Piturca voiced his delight over the result, although the celebratio­ns were tempered by a serious injury to midfielder Mirel Radoi, who faces eye surgery after being stretchere­d off after a clash of heads with teammate Razvan Rat.

“I think we gained a point rather than dropped two. We controlled the match and were in the lead and had the penalty, but I think we should be satisfied,” said Piturca, who was less concerned by Mutu’s penalty miss, however, than by the poor defending of a corner which resulted in his side conceding an equalizer to Christian Panucci within a minute of Mutu having given it the lead, 10 minutes into the second half.

“We could say Italy was lucky, of course. When you have a penalty and the player does not manage to score obviously that is a lucky thing for Italy.”

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