European Championship Qualifiers: Chiellini does it all in Italy’s escape


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The Independent Football

Both Italy and the Netherlands enjoyed narrow escapes last night, needing late strikes to beat Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan respectively in their European Championship qualifiers, Giorgio Chiellini scoring all three goals in Italy’s game.

Chiellini redeemed himself six minutes after getting  Azerbaijan’s equaliser as the Juventus defender headed in Italy’s winner in the 82nd minute and spared the Azzurri’s blushes in Palermo.

Azerbaijan defended with 10 men and Italy had trouble creating opportunities until Chiellini took advantage of an error by the goalkeeper to give Italy the lead in the 44th minute.

Chiellini then scored into his own net with 14 minutes to go as he attempted to defend a corner but he made up for his error by heading in again with eight minutes to go.

Croatia, who won 1-0 at Bulgaria, share the Group H lead with Italy with six points each.

The Netherlands struggled to a 3-1 victory over 10-man Kazakhstan in Amsterdam.

Defender Renat Abdulin gave 127th-ranked Kazakhstan a shock lead with a powerful 17th-minute header before substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar levelled just after the hour.

A deflected 82nd-minute shot by Ibrahim Afellay, who started his first international in nearly two years, put the Dutch ahead before Robin van Persie’s penalty in the last minute secured the three points and coach Guus Hiddink’s first win in three matches since taking over from Louis van Gaal after the World Cup.

The match turned in the 64th minute when Baurzhan Dzholchiyev was sent off for a tackle from behind on Afellay.

Meanwhile, Luis Suarez, who bit Chiellini at the World Cup, played his first game since being banned straight afterwards when he started Uruguay’s friendly with Saudi Arabia last night.

The Barcelona striker was involved in the goal that gave Uruguay the lead just after half time, Hassan Fallatah putting the ball in his own net, but had been taken off when  Saudi Arabia equalised in the final minute.