Italians inspired by Maldini
Monday 31 March 1997
Italy maintained their 100 per cent record and replaced England at the top of the World Cup qualifying Group Two when they defeated Moldova 3- 0 in Trieste on Saturday.
The Italians, who won 1-0 in England last month, were never troubled by the visitors and ran out easy winners with an outstanding individual goal from Paolo Maldini and others from Gianfranco Zola and Christian Vieri, who scored Italy's 1000th international goal on his debut. The result gives the Italians 12 points from four matches - three more than England.
The Netherlands also preserved their 100 per cent record with a 4-0 win over San Marino in Group Seven in Amsterdam, but it took the strong Dutch team 44 minutes to score the first goal against a side who had conceded 21 goals in their opening four qualifiers.
Two of their goals came in the last eight minutes through Pierre van Hooijdonk and Frank de Boer. Patrick Kluivert and De Boer scored the opening goals.
Romania crushed the part-timers of Liechtenstein 8-0 in a Group Eight match to record their biggest win since beating Finland 9-0 in a World Cup qualifier nearly 24 years ago.
Gheorghe Popescu, the Barcelona midfielder, led the rout with four goals. The result maintained Romania's 100 per cent start in the group with four straight wins and moved them five points clear of Macedonia and Ireland who both have seven points and meet each other on Wednesday.
Cyprus knocked Russia out of their stride by holding the Group Five leaders to a surprise 1-1 draw in Paralimni. Cyprus took the lead after 31 minutes through Sinica Gogic with Igor Simutenkov equalising a minute later.
The two matches in Group Nine produced only one goal, with Ukraine beating Albania 1-0 in neutral Granada, Spain.
Only 250 fans paid to see the game which was switched from Tirana because of the unrest in the Balkan country. Ukraine won with a first-half goal from Sergeui Rebrov.
Croatia and Denmark drew 1-1 in Split in a Group One match with goals from two of the most exciting players in Europe. Davor Suker put Croatia ahead after 50 minutes and Brian Laudrup equalised for the Danes eight minutes from time.
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