Italy's Lippi: We got more than we deserved

September 7, 2008

LARNACA, September 7 (World Cup Qualifying) - Italy coach Marcello Lippi admitted his side were lucky after an injury-time winner secured them a 2-1 victory in Cyprus in their opening World Cup qualifier on Saturday night.

Lippi went for an attacking line-up in his first official game back in charge of the Azzurri, with three strikers in Antonio Di Natale, Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino.

It paid off as Di Natale pounced in the ninth minute but Lippi's plans went out the window following match-ending injuries to Alessandro Gamberini and Fabio Grosso inside the opening 20 minutes.

''We got more than we deserved,'' Lippi told Sky Italia. ''Lucky that we got the result at the end - which was maybe more than we merited.

''But we were very unlucky in that we lost two important players in the first 15 minutes.''

Italy had the impressive Gianluigi Buffon to thank for several fine saves, although the Juventus number one was unable to do anything with Stathis Aloneftis' equaliser on the half-hour mark.

The world champions came close to falling behind on several occasions as they struggled to stamp their authority on the opposition, but Lippi defended his selection policy.

''I wasn't in any way underestimating our opponents,'' he added. ''It was the opposite, rather we knew that was the only way to put them in difficulty.

''And we did that at the beginning, even if we risked a bit at the back but luckily we have a goalkeeper that only we have.

''What wasn't foreseen is that we would lose two players.''

Di Natale pounced two minutes into injury time to ensure Italy got their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a winning start, and the Udinese striker hopes for more of the same against Georgia on Saturday.

''I didn't save anyone, it was the national team that saved itself,'' said Di Natale. ''Scoring two goals for your country is always great but Italy are in no way dependent on me.

''I hope lots of people come on Wednesday and I will try again to do well.''

Buffon, meanwhile, was delighted with the result after being made to work harder than he might have expected prior to kick-off.

''The defenders often reduce my work to the minimum - today I helped them,'' he said. ''But that's what I'm between the posts for, it's not that I think I have done something exceptional.

''It would have been more fair to lose this match.''

Gamberini, who dislocated his shoulder, and Grosso, who fractured two ribs, will not be available for Wednesday's game but Lippi will not been calling up any replacements.