The United States stunned Italy 1-0 on Wednesday as Clint Dempsey’s second-half goal gave the Americans their first ever victory over the Azzurri in 11 meetings.
Dempsey became only the fourth American to score against Italy when he fired past Gianluigi Buffon in the 55th minute, and the U.S. clung on for a memorable win in the friendly international.
It is Jurgen Klinsmann’s fifth victory in 10 games as U.S. coach and will also serve as personal revenge for the former Germany great after losing the 2006 World Cup semifinal to eventual champion Italy when in charge of the German national team.
The U.S. stunned Italy 10 minutes after the break when Jozy Altidore kicked Michael Bradley’s cross out to Dempsey and the Fulham striker lashed in a fierce shot from just outside the box that flew past Buffon’s outstretched hand and into the bottom left corner. It was Dempsey’s 25th goal in 83 appearances.
Italy almost snatched a draw in stoppage time when Riccardo Montolivo’s effort flashed past the right upright. It is the Azzurri’s first defeat in Genoa since 1924.
The atmosphere in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris was very different from the last time the arena hosted a match, when Italy was awarded a 3-0 win over Serbia in European Championship qualifying after the game was called off in the seventh minute following crowd trouble from the visiting fans.
There was no sign of such trouble on Wednesday and a sizable American contingent added to the lively atmosphere. Former baseball great Mike Piazza was among the 15,000 fans, alongside Brian McBride — who was left with a bleeding face following an elbow by Daniele De Rossi during a 2006 World Cup match.
Klinsmann had most of his regulars back after playing with a backup squad in victories over Venezuela and Panama. He had hoped to be able to pair Dempsey with Landon Donovan for the first time since taking over as coach last year, but the Los Angeles Galaxy forward pulled out of the squad Sunday with bronchitis. Jermaine Jones also withdrew with a strained right calf, and the two were replaced by Sasha Kljestan and Brek Shea.
Italy had its own personnel problem, especially up front where it was missing injured forwards Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano. Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli was left of the squad because of his fiery temper and unpredictability.