Football: Maskell's mastery humbles Italians

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Barclays League. .3

Italian Serie B. .1

ITALY has England's best players and provides the best football for television yet at Ashton Gate last night the Barclays XI had the better of their counterparts from the Italian Second Division.

Victory by a two-goal margin represents a job well done for Glen Hoddle and his team who in their own small way did much to counter accepted theory that the Italians are in a different league altogether.

Craig Maskell would not have created too much attention in Italy with his goalscoring exploits this season for Swindon. They know more about him now, two first-half goals laying most of the brickwork for a handsome triumph which was a tribute to the way Hoddle had marshalled his troops this week. Last night's result was ample compensation for a 2-1 loss to the Italians in Caserta earlier this year.

'A great performance and a great result,' was how the once- great player, now a great manager- in-the-making responded. 'The players were able to express themselves and showed some delightful passing and movement. In fact, the kind of things we usually admire about the Italian game.'

The vast terrace spaces cried out for something meaningful from the start and only two minutes had elapsed when Maskell put the home side ahead after Gavin Peacock and Jim Magilton had combined. If he enjoyed the luck of the bounce that is how it tends to go for strikers in form: this was his 12th of the season.

Numero 13 appeared 28 minutes later, goalkeeper Luca Bucci compounding the poor impressions he made when failing to deal with his opponents' first attack. This time he passed lamely to the feet of Jon Goodman who merely had to look up to see Maskell in another scoring position.

There were further scoring opportunities while little was seen from the visitors as an attacking threat. They competed strongly in midfield where the diminuitive Benito Carbone stood out but with his withdrawal at half time went a lot of his side's craft.

Martin Allen sealed a captain's performance with an outstanding goal midway through the second half, winning a midfield tackle before executing a superlative lob beyond the hapless Bucci.

The substitute, Giampiero Maini, achieved some respite with a 74th minute reply but the Italians' manager, the former World Cup winner, Marco Tardelli, had it right when he said his team were well beaten. 'If you make mistakes on the international stage you will always be punished,' he said.

BARCLAYS LEAGUE: Wright (Newcastle); Kerslake (Swindon), Drysdale (Watford), Futcher (Grimsby), Calderwood (Swindon), Awford (Portsmouth), Magilton (Oxford), M Allen (West Ham), Maskell (Swindon), Peacock (Newcastle), Goodman (Millwall). Substitutes: Cole (Bristol City) for Maskell, 56; Stewart (Bristol Rovers) for Goodman, 64.

ITALIAN SERIE B: Bucci (Reggiana); Tarozzi (Bologna), Francesconi, Corrado (both Reggiana), Verga (Venezia), Lamacchi (Verona), Olivares (Spal), Piubelli (Verona), Carbone (Ascoli), Cristallini (Pisa), Del Vecchio (Venezia). Substitutes: Maini (Lecce) for Cristallini, h/t; Gennari (Piacenza) for Carbone, h/t; Grossi (Lecce) for Lamacchi, 66.

Referee: J McCluskey (Scotland).