Alessandro Del Piero has answered his Italy critics with a winning goal in Moldova as they maintain their 100 per cent record in qualifying .
Marcello Lippi made five changes from the side that beat Norway 2-1 at the weekend, removing both goalscorers Daniele De Rossi and Luca Toni. Alessandro Del Piero made his comeback after missing that opener with a calf problem, while Massimo Ambrosini, Andrea Pirlo and Aimo Diana also stepped in. Gianluca Zambrotta was returned to a fullback role, while Stefano Fiore, Giuseppe Favalli and Fabrizio Miccoli sat on the bench.
The tie was moved to Chisinau due to security fears, but the heavy rainfall made the pitch difficult to play passing football on.
Italy had an incredible chance to open the scoring on 4 minutes when Gilardino managed to hook a loose ball back towards the unmarked Diana, but he hit it with his shin and turned over an open goal from six yards.
Moldova were aggressive and Alessandro Nesta needed all of his pace to catch Covalciuc and neutralise his counter-attack. Soon after they found space down the left flank and Rogaciov's angled drive was just wide of the far post.
A great team move on the edge of the box saw Del Piero earn a corner, and on the resulting Pirlo set-piece Del Piero's glancing header struck the far post with the goalkeeper beaten.
Zambrotta almost took full advantage of a defensive error, only for Catinsus to close him down as he was preparing to pull the trigger.
Yet it was Moldova who went even closer on the half-hour mark when Buffon parried a diving Covalciuc header on to the post, then scrambled it back just as it was on top of the line. The local fans insisted it had already crossed over, but replays show the ball had not completely gone into the goal.
Italy survived the scare and broke the deadlock two minutes later with Alessandro Del Piero. Gilardino did well to draw two defenders away and cut across for the captain who placed a precise low left-foot drive into the far corner of the net. It was the much-criticised Juve man's first Italy goal from open play since June 2003.
It was so nearly 2-0 a few moments later, as a team move that included Del Piero, Gilardino and Marco Materazzi was headed inches wide by Diana. Then Daniele Bonera hit his low cross a bit too hard, leaving both Gilardino and Del Piero stranded.
Buffon was called into the first save of the second half as he flew across the face of goal to push out a fierce Lascenov free kick. On the resulting corner Bursuc fired inches wide of the upright.
Gattuso's ambitious chip was plucked out of the top corner by Hmaruc, then the Milan midfielder was hacked down by Dadu, who was booked within minutes of stepping on to the pitch.
Lippi made his first substitution with just 17 minutes to go, replacing Ambrosini with fullback Massimo Oddo and pushing Zambrotta back into midfield.
Dadu was an unsuccessful substitute for Moldova, as he picked up two yellow cards in the 15 minutes he spent on the field.
Luca Toni, who bagged the winner against Norway on Saturday, took over from Gilardino for the closing stages of the game.
Del Piero continued to impress and his acrobatic volley was pushed out with some difficulty by a Hmaruc reaction save . Manuele Blasi replaced Daniele Bonera to shore up the midfield in the final minutes. Deep into stoppages, Gattuso and Materazzi combined to block Moldova's last ditch attempt at an equaliser following a defensive error.
Italy: Buffon; Bonera (Blasi 83), Materazzi, Nesta, Zambrotta; Gattuso, Ambrosini (Oddo 73), Pirlo, Diana; Del Piero , Gilardino (Toni 79)
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