International friendly, Emirates Stadium
Tuesday, February 10, 2009. 7.45pm
Brazil scorers: Elano 13, Robinho 27

By Declan Taylor

Manchester City duo Robinho and Elano settled this international showpiece with quick-fire first-half strikes to inflict Marcello Lippi’s first defeat in 32 matches.

Italy had already seen a goal ruled out before the pair combined for Elano to open the scoring after 13 minutes, bursting into the box to slam an effort past Gianluigi Buffon.

A magnificent individual strike from Robinho was to follow with the ex-Real Madrid trickster sliding an effort in off the post from just inside the area after a tirade of stepovers.

Italy saw another strike chalked off after the interval and, despite the best efforts of substitutes Luca Toni and Giuseppe Rossi, Italy were unable to find a goal.

With Manchester City due to visit Emirates Stadium in under a month, tonight’s performance from the Eastlands duo will provide Arsène Wenger with some useful food for thought.

On a chilly North London evening it was a genuine carnival atmosphere that greeted the two sides with both halves of the bumper Emirates Stadium crowd belting out their respective anthems with vigour.

The Premier League’s most expensive player, Robinho, lined up as part of a three-pronged Brazilian attack. He and Ronaldinho flanked Adriano, who had notched in his last two international outings.

The Azzuri adopted a similar formation with Udinese duo Simone Pepe and Antonio di Natale supporting the lone frontman Alberto Gilardino.

Liverpool left back Andrea Dossena, had to make do with a place on the bench.

It was Lippi’s chosen left back who provided the game’s first talking point after four minutes. Fabio Grosso, who had been beautifully picked out by Andrea Pirlo, steered a volley past Julio Cesar from eight yards. Unfortunately for the Italian, the linesman’s flag was up.

The full back’s presence in the opposition area typified the opening exchanges, with neither side appearing to care much for their defensive duties. As such, the opening goal wasn’t long in coming.

The strike was completely made in Manchester with Robinho and Elano combining  well on the edge of the area before the latter burst into the area to plant a 12-yard effort past Buffon.

After such a frenetic opening, the goal settled both teams down and, if anything, Italy appeared to be taking control. However, Robinho was literally up to his old tricks 14 minutes later.

The £32 million man dispossessed Pirlo on the edge of the Italy area and, despite the attentions of three Italian defenders, he was able to slither a shot beneath Buffon from 15 yards.

It was Harlem Globetrotters stuff from Dunga’s side, with Elano and Maicon testing Buffon shortly afterwards. While, a couple of long-range De Rossi efforts aside, Italy offered very little.

The slightly lacklustre first half showing prompted Lippi to shuffle his pack at the interval. The manager, who before tonight had not lost an international match since 2004, made four changes including the introduction of former-Manchester United frontman Rossi.

He almost made his presence felt within minutes of the kick off but he could only spear a drive into the side netting when well placed.

Shortly after the hour-mark, Italy had the ball in the net once again, but this time substitute Luca Toni’s bundled strike was chalked off for a handball in the build up. The blue half of the crowd were incensed but the infringement was obvious.

Both sides generally tightened up after half time and, although the football was as lucid as ever, clear-cut chances were less forthcoming.

It wasn’t until seven minutes from time that either side fashioned a real opening again.  However, Toni, frustrated by Howard Webb’s whistle earlier, had only himself to blame when he was unable to convert from four yards with the goal gaping.

Ex-Arsenal striker Julio Baptista replaced Man of the Match Robinho a minute before time and his reception, from both sets of fans, summed up the performance.

On an entertaining evening, he had been the main protagonist.

Brazil (4-3-3): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio (c), Juan (Thiago 78), Melo; Marcelo, Elano (Alves 70), Gilberto; Ronaldinho, Robinho (Baptista 89), Adriano (Pato 81). Subs not used: Doni, Luisao, Adriano Correia, Josue.
Bookings: None

Italy (4-3-3): Buffon; Zambrotta, Grosso, Legrottaglie, Cannavaro (c); De Rossi (Aquilani 58), Pirlo (Dossena 75), Montolivo (Camoranesi 46); Pepe (Perrotta), Di Natale (Rossi 46), Gilardino (Toni 46). Subs not used: Amelia, Bonera, Gamberini, Quagliarella, De Sanctis, Iaquinta.
Bookings: Perrotta 69, Zambrotta 77.

Attendance: 60,077
Referee: Howard Webb

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10 Feb 2009