LECCE, Italy, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Alberto Aquilani struck
twice to hand Group Eight leaders Italy a 2-1 win over a plucky
Montenegro in an open World Cup qualifying game on Wednesday.
Victory meant Italy boss Marcello Lippi, over his two spells
in charge, has equalled 1934 and 1938 World Cup-winning coach
Vittorio Pozzo's record of 30 games without defeat.
Midfielder Aquilani, who replaced Riccardo Montolivo in
Italy's only change from Saturday's 0-0 draw in Bulgaria, slid
home his first international goal on eight minutes after
goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic had parried Simone Pepe's cross.
Mirko Vucinic, who plays in Italy with AS Roma, brought a
talented Montenegro level following a counter attack but
Aquilani's deflected effort on the half hour put the world
champions back in front.
Italy top the group with 10 points from four games and next
travel to Montenegro in March.
"It's the second game in a few days and this Montenegro
caused us problems and have some really skilful players. We've
got three points and this is the most important thing," Lippi
told Rai TV before commenting on equalling Pozzo's record.
"I don't want any false modesty. It's fantastic."
The Azzurri made a bright start with left back Andrea
Dossena shooting wide but the visitors, who drew their first two
qualifiers, showed they are not to be underestimated and
dominated long periods of play.
Aquilani's opener from close range steadied Italy's nerves
but they were soon frayed again when Gianluca Zambrotta blocked
Elsad Zverotic's shot on the line.
Montenegro then deservedly levelled on 19 minutes when
Aquilani's club team mate Vucinic, who also used to play at
Lecce, fired in a fierce effort which keeper Marco Amelia could
only get a hand to.
Some scrappy defending from the away side then allowed
Aquilani to grab the winner, with his angled shot taking a big
deflection off defender Jovan Tanasijevic.