Late flurry gives Italy 2-0 OT semifinal victory


The Associated Press
Italy's Fabio Grosso, right, scores the first goal for his team in the extra time of the semifinal World Cup match between Germany and Italy in Dortmund, Germany Tuesday. At left is Germany's Michael Ballack. Italy won the match 2-0 after extra time.

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) — For a team intent on avoiding penalty kicks, Italy sure cut things close.
Like down to the final minute.
For nearly two hours Tuesday, Germany’s attack probed and Italy held firm. Then, with stunningly swift strikes by Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero, the Italians were headed to the World Cup final.
The 2-0 victory sent Italy to Berlin for Sunday’s championship match against the winner of today’s semifinal between Portugal and France. Their hopes of a fourth trophy — and first since 1982 — are alive.
The hosts were crushed. In sudden fashion, just when a shootout seemed inevitable.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Italy playmaker Francesco Totti said. “Before Grosso’s goal, when there was only a minute left, I was already thinking about how I was going to shoot my penalty.”
Germany is almost unbeatable in shootouts and Italy abysmal. Coach Marcello Lippi was well aware of that.
“We controlled the play more than Germany did and, in the end, we got these two great goals, which allowed us to avoid the roulette of a penalty shootout,” Lippi said.
First came the left-footed shot that Grosso twisted into the far side of the net off a clever pass from Andrea Pirlo in the 119th minute. Then Alessandro Del Piero clinched the win a minute later with a counterattacking goal as the Germans pressed frantically to equalize.
“As I put Del Piero on, I told him, ‘Let Del Piero get the winning score,”’ Lippi said of the 104th-minute substitute. “You could see by the way he was playing from the first minute he was on the pitch how much he wanted to play.”
For much of the night, Germany was the more dangerous team, but it just couldn’t finish. Italy’s technical brilliance didn’t fade even when its legs began to give.
Lukas Podolski, Bernd Schneider and Arne Friedrich had the best chances, but no opponent has dented Italy’s net in the tournament; in six matches, the Azzurri (Blues) have allowed only an own-goal against the United States.
In handing the Germans their first loss in 15 games at Dortmund, the Azzurri also remained undefeated in five World Cup meetings with Germany — this was their third win to go with two draws. Italy is unbeaten in 24 games since October 2004.
“If we weren’t to have won on the pitch, and it had gone to penalties, it would have been a great injustice,” Lippi said. “We played better than the Germans, in their own home, in front of nearly 70,000 fans. The guys were fantastic. They played a brilliant game.”
Critics considered the Germans too young and inexperienced to get this far. They were heavily criticized after a 4-1 loss to Italy in a March friendly, but their move through earlier games and their shootout win over Argentina in the quarterfinals stamped them as the favorite.
So this was a bitter defeat.
“I already told my team in the dressing room that the team has every reason to be proud of themselves,” said Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup played in Italy. “They really achieved amazing things at this World Cup.”
So has Italy, considering what’s happening back home.
The win came as scandal tears apart the national sport from Turin to Rome to Florence to Milan. A probe into match fixing has not proven a distraction, even though 13 of the 23 Italy players are from the four teams — Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio — under investigation.
“We have a great group,” Grosso said. “We’ve beaten some very good teams.”
Even before they beat this opponent, Italy’s reserves rushed onto the field after Grosso took a brilliant tap pass from Andrea Pirlo in the box and curled his shot beyond the leaping reach of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and just inside the post.
With the hosts pushing forward in desperation, the Italians struck again on a two-on-one break. Del Piero finished with a right-footed blast into the top of the net just before the whistle sounded.
The Italians mobbed each other and rolled around on the field as their blue-clad fans in a sliver of the stadium jumped in delight, waving the green, white and red flags in ecstasy.
While the Italians celebrated, the Germans collapsed in dismay.
The home crowd lingered to cheer their heroes, singing and chanting their names and “Deutschland, Deutschland” after the match. Germany captain Michael Ballack and several others cried as they left the field after circling it to recognize their flag-waving fans. They were defeated, but unashamed.
“It’s bitter to lose like that,” Germany defender Philipp Lahm said. “We had set ourselves the target of reaching the semifinals, but once you’ve reached that you want to go all the way.”


Top four females alive


The Associated Press
Maria Sharapova of Russia returns a shot to Elena Dementieva of Russia during their Women's Singles, quarterfinal match, on Wimbledon's Centre Court, Tuesday.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — The Wimbledon seeding committee got this one just right.
The top four seeded players advanced to the women’s semifinals at Wimbledon: No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 2 Kim Clijsters, No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 4 Maria Sharapova.
On Thursday, 2004 champion Sharapova will play Mauresmo, and Clijsters will face Henin-Hardenne in the 20th career match between the Belgian rivals.
Clijsters leads Henin-Hardenne 10-9, not counting Henin-Hardenne’s two victories in lower-tier events in 1998 and 1999. Henin-Hardenne has won three of the last four, including at the French Open and Eastbourne grass-court tournament last month.
This will be their first meeting at Wimbledon. Henin-Hardenne leads 4-2 at other Grand Slams.
“It will be the third time in a month, so I think that we know each other well enough,” Henin-Hardenne said. “But never here in Wimbledon. I don’t know what to expect about that. I’m just going to try to keep the same preparation, nothing different from what I did in the last few weeks. The best will win.”
Neither player has lost a set in five matches at this tournament. Clijsters beat China’s Li Na, 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, while Henin-Hardenne downed French qualifier Severine Bremond, 6-4, 6-4.





Homer 12-and-under wins

Kevin McNeil led the visiting Homer 12-and-under Williamsport World Series team past Owego 2-1 on Saturday.
McNeil hit two long home runs and pitched a one hitter, striking out eight. He was supported by solid defense by the Homer squad.
Catcher Parker Williamson had two hits and played an exceptional defensive game.
The team members are McNeil, Williamson, Thomas Austin, Vinnie Bellardini, Nick Cowen, Mike Hartnett, Sully Hartnett, Conner Johnston, Brandon Maxson, Brent Quinlan, Jake Randolph, Leo Riley and Tim Walsh.
The Homer 12-and-under squad travels to Maine-Endwell today.
Vestal prevailed over Homer, 6-5, in the opening round of the 9/10 Williamsport Little League Baseball Tournament Saturday in Vestal. 
Chase Davis led Homer with two hits while Jake Casey pitched six solid innings.
The team members are Josh Apker, Payten Boice, Jake Casey, Trevor Chase, Chase Davis, Christopher Lee, Collin Pickert, Rex Ryan, Brad Sciera, Connor Simonetta, Christopher Sweeney and Jake Trierweiler.
The Homer 9/10 squad will travel to Owego today.