2 draw by Bulgaria in WC qualifier
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) European Championship runnerup Italy was held to a 22 draw by Bulgaria in its opening World Cup qualifier Friday despite two goals from Pablo Osvaldo.
A rare mistake by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon allowed Stanislav Manolev to put Bulgaria in front on the halfhour mark, not long after the Italian had pulled off a stunning stop.
"We knew it would be a difficult game. We played well in the first half, but were in a bit of difficulty in the second. But they also played well, I think it was a fair result.''
Italy has now let in as many goals in one World Cup qualifier as it did in the entire qualifying campaign for Euro 2012.
Italy created few chances and showed little of the form. that took it to the Euro 2012 www.wholesalejerseyschina.net final in July. Italy has never won in Sofia, losing twice and drawing three times.
"A point is okay,'' Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "We always have problems at the beginning of the season. It's a shame we didn't manage to score a third goal, when we were winning 21.
"We lacked pace and rythm. We lacked our usual pace tonight. I was pleased with the two attackers up front, Osvaldo and Giovinco. They moved well. But we were missing a link man. At the Euros we stole the ball and counterattacked. We didn't do that tonight.''
The Azzurri's chances of snatching all three points grew slimmer when Daniele De Rossi limped off, leaving Italy at a numerical disadvantage for the final 12 minutes with the team having used all three substitutes.
De Rossi will return to Italy for tests on his right thigh inury and will miss Tuesday's game against Malta in Modena.
Armenia tops Group B after beating Malta 10 earlier in the day.
With Antonio Cassano left out by Prandelli and Mario Balotelli absent after undergoing eye surgery, Sebastian Giovinco and Osvaldo started up front together for the first time.
The young duo struggled to make an impact, and it was Bulgaria which had the first real chance of the game in the 24th minute.
Emil Gargorov's free kick fell to Ivan Ivanov, but Buffon did brilliantly to keep out his effort with a diving save.
However, the Italy goalkeeper was left rooted to the spot by Manolev's 30yard thunderbolt six minutes later.
Italy was back on level terms when Osvaldo found himself in space in the area and fired a leftfooted shot past Bulgaria goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov shortly afterward.
Osvaldo scored his second international goal two minutes later when he got his head on Emmanuele Giaccherini's cross and it was deflected past Mihaylov by Ivanov.
Bulgaria almost restored parity immediately but Ivelin Popov's swiveling shot was inches over the crossbar. The striker then saw another effort fly narrowly wide.
Italy could have extended its lead shortly after the break, but Mihaylov did well to punch clear Giovinco's powerful effort.
Bulgaria looked the more dangerous side and went close to leveling when Leonardo Bonucci deflected Popov's effort just past the post.
The home side's pressure paid off in the 66th minute when Ilian Micanski found Milanov in the center of the area and he powered a rightfooted shot in under the crossbar.
Bulgaria missed a glorious chance to take the lead when a corner was floated to Micanski, who was all alone in front of goal but headed off target.
Seconds later Buffon saved his team yet again as he rushed out to close Wholesale Jerseys Manolev's angle and clear the danger, with the Bulgaria defender bearing down on goal, one on one with the Italy shotstopper.
Italy also went close to taking the lead when substitute Mattia Destro, who had only just come on, tried to slip the ball past Mihaylov, following a swift counterattack, but mishit his effort and it rolled harmlessly wide.
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