September 05, 1998
LIVERPOOL, England -- Diego Fuser capitalized on a defensive lapse to score in the 19th minute, and Italy went on to an unimpressive 2-0 European Championship qualifying victory over Wales on Saturday night.
Welsh defender Chris Coleman failed to clear the ball a few yards from the Welsh net, lost it to Fuser, who kicked into an empty goal from an angled position.
World Cup striker Christian Vieri, fed by Roberto Baggio, out-dribbled two Welsh defenders and added the insurance goal with 13 minutes left.
Vieri, who transferred from Atletico Madrid to Lazio last week in a record deal, put the ball into the Welsh net with a precise and soft left-footed shot.
The success at Anfield Road marked the debut of Dino Zoff as Italy's coach, who months after the Azzurri were beaten by France in the World Cup quarterfinals, which led to the dismissal of Cesare Maldini.
The Italians, unexpectedly starting Alessandro Del Piero and fielded Baggio for only the last 15 minutes, showed questionable form and was often put in trouble by Wales' fast attacks.
Welsh forward Ryan Giggs was a steady threat and hit the bar with a powerful free kick in the 42nd minute.
Nathan Blake had the best scoring chance for the home team in the 10th minute, but Italian keeper Angelo Peruzzi made a sensational save on the powerful header by the Welsh forward from a few yards.
Zoff praised the Italian defense "which did not allow many chances to Wales."
"It was a good debut, considering most Italian players are not yet in peak condition," said Zoff, a former national team keeper and world champion in 1982.
The victory on the road gave Italy three points and first place in the standings of Group 1, which also includes Switzerland, Denmark and Belarus.
Italy plays Switzerland next, in Udine, on October 10.
Wales: Paul Jones; John Robinson, Darren Barnard, Kit Symons, Adrian Williams, Chris Coleman, Andy Johnson, Gary Speed, Nathan Blake (Dean Saunders, 65th minute), Mark Hughes (Robbie Savage, 80th), Ryan Giggs.
Italy: Angelo Peruzzi; Christian
Panucci, Gianluca Pessotto, Dino Baggio, Fabio Cannavaro, Mark Iuliano,
Diego Fuser, Demetrio Albertini (Luigi Di Biagio, 66th), Christian Vieri,
Alessandro Del Piero (Roberto Baggio, 75th), Eusebio Di Francesco (Michele