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Lucarelli goal earns Italy draw with Serbia

A debut goal from striker Cristiano Lucarelli seven minutes from time earned ten-man Italy a 1-1 draw against Serbia and Montenegro in a lively friendly match at the Skydome on Wednesday night.

Serbia and Montenegro took the lead in the 25th minute when striker Nikola Zigic latched on to a defence-splitting pass from Dragan Mladenovic and rounded keeper Angelo Peruzzi before slotting home.

Marcello Lippi's experimental Italy side were reduced to ten men six minutes later, when midfielder Manuele Blasi was sent off for a foul on Simon Vukcevic.

Also missing several of their regular starters, the Serbs were far more constructive with Vukcevic impressive in midfield and the strike pairing of Zigic and Mirko Vucinic, from Serie A club Lecce, causing plenty of problems for the Italian defence.

Lippi made three changes at the break with Fabio Grosso, Carmine Coppola and Lucarelli entering the fray and immediately making a difference.

Livorno forward Lucarelli, who finished top scorer in Serie A with 24 goals, went close to bringing his side level with a powerful run and shot in the 53rd minute.

Then Serbian keeper Oliver Kovacevic produced a fine stop to keep out a drive from Simone Barone as Italy pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

Faced with a numerical disadvantage, Lippi switched to three at the back and that left space for Zigic to strike the post in the 70th minute after bursting into the area.

There was a real determination from both sides and the 'Azzurri' drew level in the 83rd minute when Grosso burst down the left and slipped the ball into the path of Lucarelli who slotted home from close range.

"We had a ten-hour flight yesterday and no-one should forget that, but the team showed a lot of character to come back," Lippi told reporters.

Italy's North American tour continues tomorrow when they play Ecuador in New York.

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