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Balotelli sent off as group leaders Italy held by Czechs

Italy's Mario Balotelli (L) fights for the ball with Czech Republic's Tomas Sivok during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Prague. Photo: Petr Josek, Reuters

Italy's Mario Balotelli (L) fights for the ball with Czech Republic's Tomas Sivok during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Prague. Photo: Petr Josek, Reuters

Mario Balotelli was sent off as Group B leaders Italy were held to a 0-0 draw by Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier.

The Milan striker was dismissed by Norwegian referee Svein Oddvar Moen after receiving a second yellow card in the 72nd minute, for catching defender Theodor Gebre Selassie in the face with his forearm.

The Czechs, with Arsenal playmaker Tomas Rosicky pulling the strings, failed to make the most of a hatful of good scoring chances.

Petr Jiracek was unable to latch on to a loose ball with only goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to beat and the same player also hit the woodwork in the 84th minute after connecting with a Jaroslav Plasil free kick.

At the other end of the field, Italy rarely tested Czech keeper Petr Cech.

The Italians stayed top of the table with 14 points from six games while the Czechs retain outside chances of qualifying on nine points.

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