A superb injury-time save from Tatyana Shcherbak ensured Russia survived a late Italy onslaught to register a shock win at the Women’s European Championship finals.
The Russia goalkeeper palmed Elisa Bartoli’s point-blank header on to the bar before Elvira Ziyastinova somehow managed to smuggle the ball off the line and through Melania Gabbiadini’s legs as the Italy forward looked certain to turn in the rebound.
The Italians were disappointing against opponents who only edged into the final automatic place for the tournament on goals scored. Elena Fomina’s unfancied side raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening 26 minutes through Elena Danilova and Ekaterina Morozova.
Danilova, a member of Russia’s 2003 World Cup squad at the age of 16, put Russia in front in the ninth minute when she latched on to a through ball from Ekaterina Sochneva, turned her marker and fired inside the near post. The veteran No9 was a constant menace but it was Sochneva who again created Russia’s second goal, swinging over a cross from the left for Morozova to head in at the far post.
Italy were ponderous until the closing moments but Ilaria Mauro pulled a goal back in the 88th minute when she turned in a driven cross from the substitute Cristiana Girelli. Sixty seconds later Bartoli had the ball in the net but her effort was ruled out for offside. Bartoli again thought she had equalised when she popped up inside the six-yard box in the final moments but she was denied by the brilliance of Shcherbak.
Sweden hold Germany to a draw
Germany, winners of the past six European Championships, were surprisingly held to a goalless draw by Sweden in Breda.
Centre-forward Mandy Islacker angled just wide with Germany’s best effort after half-time in a game of few chances.
Montpellier’s Stina Blackstenius had Sweden’s best chance, but her low shot from close range was well blocked by Wolfsburg keeper Almuth Schult.
Germany had won their past 11 competitive games against…