Football: Two helpings of Ravanelli

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The Independent Online
England's opening World Cup victory over Moldova was put into perspective last night when the east Europeans forced Italy to battle hard in Chisinau for a 3-1 victory in qualifying Group Two.

But the shock of the day came 250 miles to the north in Kiev, where Ukraine followed up their opening victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast by beating Portugal 2-1 to go to the top of qualifying Group Nine.

It took second-half goals from Pierluigi Casiraghi and Fabrizio Ravanelli, his second of the game, to subdue the determined Moldovans, who hit straight back after the Middlesbrough striker had put the Italians ahead direct from an eigthth-minute free-kick. A defensive lapse by Ciro Ferrara offered midfielder Alexandru Curteanu the opportunity to score the equaliser for Moldova three minutes later.

It took a few words of wisdom from coach Arrigo Sacchi during the interval and a couple of astute substitutions, introducing striker Enrico Chiesa and the experienced midfielder Gianfranco Zola, to spark the Italians into life. Casiraghi scored in the 68th minute with a close-range header from from Angelo Di Livio's and Ravanelli made it 3-1, with three minutes left, from a penalty kick after Casiraghi was fouled by Sergei Nani.

Luis Figo looked to have salvaged a point for Portugal in Kiev with an 83rd minute equaliser against Ukraine only to see Yuri Maksimov score the winner with two minutes left. The 2-1 defeat left the Portuguese with just one point from two games after an earlier draw with Armenia.

Serhi Popov gave Ukraine a fifth-minute lead with a header after following up when the Portuguese goalkeeper Vitor Baia failed to hold his blistering shot.

In Tallinn, defender Sergei Hohlov-Simson gave Estonia a 1-0 victory over Belarus, putting them in third place behind Sweden and Scotland in Group Four. It was only Estonia's second World Cup success, the previous one coming in 1937 against Finland before absorption into the Soviet Union in 1940.

Victory came at a cost. Estonia's 18-year-old forward Andres Oper broke his leg in the 26th minute.