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Totti triumphs in tight affair

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

[1] Francesco Totti scored twice as Italy got their FIFA World Cup qualification campaign back on track, but they were made to sweat by a determined Belarus side in Group 5.

Amazing match

[2] Marcello Lippi's side saw a two-goal lead halved no fewer than three times in a pulsating encounter but held on to triumph 4-3 and return to winning ways after Saturday's slip against Slovenia. A spot-kick from Totti was followed by Daniele De Rossi's arrowed effort and when Totti's free-kick later made it 3-1, Maksim Romashchenko's stunning goal for Belarus appeared to have been rendered irrelevant. But Vitali Bulyha pulled another goal back and had it not been for Alberto Gilardino's header, Romashchenko's second would have levelled the scores.

Penalty opener

[3] It was Totti who was handed the chance to give the Italians a 27th-minute lead, after Vladzimir Korytko handled the ball in the penalty area from a corner. After being ordered to retake his kick, the AS Roma player again made no mistake, blasting the ball high into the net. The Azzurri quickly doubled their advantage after De Rossi pounced on a poor clearance to fire a powerful shot past Vasili Khomutovski.

Buffon beaten

[4] Belarus started the second half brightly, however, and it brought rich rewards when FC Dinamo Moskva striker Romashchenko found space to blast in a shot from fully 35 metres past a despairing Gianluigi Buffon. But just as Belarus sensed the possibility of snatching something from the game, Totti struck again to restore the two-goal cushion on 75 minutes. Ideally positioned just outside the area, Totti struck a wonderful free-kick into the top right-hand corner.

Substitute scores

[5] Italian nerves were still evident and they conceded a sloppy goal to let the visitors back into the match. Substitute Bulyha punished sluggish play by Gennaro Gattuso to turn and shoot inside the area past Buffon. But with the match set up for a frantic finish, Gilardino nodded in Khomutovski's parry in the 86th minute, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt.

Yaskovich off

[6] There was still time for Romashchenko to cap a splendid individual performance by scoring his second spectacular goal of the night, rivalling Totti's earlier free-kick by sending his set-piece high into the net from distance. As Belarus pushed for a fourth goal, left-back Sergei Yaskovich received his second yellow card, though, and will miss the trip to Slovenia on 30 March, four days after Italy face Scotland at home.

Italy goalscorer Francesco Totti is congratulated by Stefano Diana