Donadoni fingers ref after Italy fail to shine

June 13, 2008

Italy coach Roberto Donadoni felt his team were superior to Romania on Friday, but also admitted the Azzurri were fortunate to be alive in the tournament after several refereeing decisions went against them.

Veteran defender Christian Panucci had responded immediately to cancel out Adrian Mutu's opener for Romania 10 minutes after the restart.

But Norwegian referee Tom Henning then gave the Romanians a controversial penalty five minutes from time which, fortunately for Donadoni and the Azzurri, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved to ensure a 1-1 draw.

Henning had also earlier ruled out a Luca Toni goal for a dubious offside.

'I don't usually speak about referees,' said Donadoni. 'But today's refereeing was not of high quality.

'Let's just say the referee did not have the best of days.'

The draw has left Italy needing to win their final game against France to have any chance of progressing to the quarter finals.

The Azzurri are level on one point with France, who play Holland in the other Group C game later on Friday.

Donadoni, who made wholesale changes to his side following their 3-0 loss to Holland in their opener, was impressed with his team's improved performance.

'I think my players interpreted the game well, with a lot of determination,' he said. 'Romania are a difficult team and I think my players merit praise for what they have done today.

'Considering what we have done in terms of chances and the determination we have shown on the pitch, I think Italy have been superior to Romania.'

Donadoni praised Gianluca Zambrotta, despite the full-back's blunder - a back pass towards Buffon that was intercepted by Mutu - which led to Romania's opener.

'Despite that incident, Zambrotta played a great game,' said Donadoni. 'He has shown a lot of quality and commitment.'

Romania coach Victor Piturca also believes Italy were fortunate to clinch a point.

'Italy had a lucky escape,' said Piturca. 'Maybe Mutu was a little bit overwhelmed by Buffon being a top-class goalkeeper.

'But these things happen and it will not be the first time nor the last time that a player has his spot-kick saved. I am actually more angry about how we conceded Italy's equaliser than about Mutu's penalty kick.'

Piturca was nevertheless satisfied with the result, which sees his team remain unbeaten in the tournament having held France to a goalless draw on Monday.

'This is a good result for the Romanian team,' he said. 'We have played against the world champions and against the World Cup runners-up and we have two points.

'We still have chances to qualify.'

Romania take on Holland in their final group game on Tuesday without midfielder Mirei Radoi.

Radoi was substituted in the 25th minute after colliding in the air with an Italian player.

'I was told Radoi's injury is quite serious,' said Piturca. 'Apparently he will need to undergo eye surgery and he has a broken nose too.

'He will not be able to play the next game.'