Zola keeps Italy on course

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOOTBALL

In yesterday's qualifying matches for the 1996 European Championship, the Parma midfielder, Gianfranco Zola, scored the only goal in Vilnius to give Italy, second in Group Four, a victory over Lithuania that maintained the pressure on leaders Croatia. Italy had to do without Roberto Baggio, who was suffering a sore throat, and the Milan midfielder, Demetrio Albertini, who was injured in the warm-up session.

Spain and Bulgaria stayed on course for a place in the Championship after convincing wins over Armenia and Moldova respectively. Spain, runaway leaders in Group Two, were 2-0 winners over Armenia in Yerevan despite having to wait until the second half to break the deadlock. Jose Amavisca was gifted the first goal in the 49th minute after a goalkeeping blunder by Abrahamian.

Juan Antonio Goicoechea added a stunning second in the 63rd minute, volleying home from 25 yards when Abrahamian thought he had punched the ball clear of danger. At the other end, Andoni Zubizarreta kept a clean sheet in goal for his 100th international match. Spain now have 16 points from six games.

Bulgaria maintained their 100 per cent record following a 3-0 win in Moldova inspired by Hristo Stoichkov. At the half-way stage of qualifying, the World Cup semi-finalists have five wins out of five. Krasimir Balakov opened the scoring after 30 minutes before Stoichkov, last year's European Footballer of the Year, added two more after the break.

Florin Raducioiu scored a hat-trick to lead Romania to a comfortable 4-1 victory over Azerbaijan in their Group One game. Raducioiu converted a penalty in the first minute and followed up with goals in the 68th and 76th minutes. Ilie Dumitrescu, on loan to the Spanish club, Seville from Tottenham Hotspur, also scored, in the 38th minute. Nasim Suleymanov scored Azerbaijan's only goal, four minutes into the game.

The victory moved Romania, who are now unbeaten in six games, closer to a berth in the final stages. Romania lead Group One with 14 points; Azerbaijan has lost all six of their games.

The game was played in Trabzon, a Black Sea coastal town, after Uefa ordered Azerbaijan to play their home qualifying games at a neutral site because of civil unrest in the former Soviet republic.

Denmark, the holders, beat Macedonia 1-0, thanks to a 70th-minute goal by Peter Nielsen.

Comments