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Three sent off as US hold Italy

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June 18, 2006 03:12 IST

Italy and the United States slugged out a bruising 1-1 draw in the most controversial match of the World Cup so far in which three players were sent off in their Group E clash on Saturday.

Alberto Gilardino's opener for Italy was cancelled out by a an own goal from Cristian Zaccardo, but the real talking point of an explosive match was a World Cup record-equalling three red cards shown by Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda.

The U.S. finished with nine men and Italy with 10.

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The Italians, so impressive in their 2-0 win over Ghana, were hustled and harried out of their stride in the opening stages as the Americans looked to make up for their dismal 3-0 defeat by Czech Republic.

Roared on by thousands of star spangled fans, many no doubt from the American air force bases scattered around the local countryside, the U.S twice went close to taking the lead but midfielders Bobby Convey and Clint Dempsey failed to hit the target.

It was against the run of play when the Azzurri took the lead after 22 minutes when striker Gilardino dived to head in Andrea Pirlo's inviting free kick.

Any thoughts that Italy would hit the cruise control button were soon dispelled, however, as they self-destructed spectacularly in the space of a minute.


After 27 minutes the Americans were gifted an equaliser when the lively Convey's cross was sliced into his own net by Cristian Zaccardo.

Things got even worse for Italy a minute later when defender Daniele De Rossi was sent off for a blatant elbow on Brian McBride right in front of the referee.

Pablo Mastroeni almost gave the Americans the lead with a dipping shot from 25 metres after 42 minutes, only to be shown a straight red card seconds before the interval for a scything foul on Pirlo.

The fireworks continued immediately after the break when referee Larrionda pulled out his red card for the third time when U.S. defender Eddie Pope, who had already been booked, lunged in from behind on Gilardino.

With any semblance of pre-match systems and tactics already in tatters, the action swung from end to end like a basketball match.

Carlos Bocanegra headed a 52nd minute Pirlo free kick against his own bar and, at the other end, substitute DaMarcus Beasley had a goal disallowed for offside after Gianluigi Buffon had allowed his shot to squeeze under his body.

Italy were effectively playing with nine men as Simone Perrotta was hobbling and all three substitutes had been used but they carved out the best chances.

Martyn Herman
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