* AC Milan’s Kaladze scores two own goals to boost Italy
* World champions again struggle throughout
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TBILISI, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Kakha Kaladze scored two calamitous own goals to hand stuttering Italy a fortunate 2-0 win over Georgia in World Cup qualifying Group Eight on Saturday.
The world champions and group leaders had to rely on AC Milan defender Kaladze to end a run of three games without a goal.
An extraordinary diving header from Angelo Palombo’s ball into the box gave Italy the lead on 56 minutes before Kaladze diverted Domenico Criscito’s cross into the net after trying to clear with his wrong foot 11 minutes later.
Italy, who lost to Egypt and Brazil at the Confederations Cup and drew 0-0 with Switzerland in a friendly last month, again lacked creativity but can take a big step towards qualification in Wednesday’s game with Bulgaria in Turin.
Coach Marcello Lippi denied suggestions the two own goals meant strictly speaking his side had not now scored in four outings.
“We scored two. If you put the defence under pressure, it’s a goal,” he told Rai television.
“In the second half we have taken advantage of a bit of luck.”
Georgia, bottom of the group, made a bright start and refused to let a renovated Italy settle. Lippi opted for a 4-4-2 formation with usual right winger Mauro Camoranesi on the left and the ineffective Marco Marchionni, returning after a three-year absence, on the right.
Sampdoria’s Palombo started in midfield with Daniele De Rossi suspended and Gennaro Gattuso injured but Italy again failed to support the strikers with runners.
Chances were rare with forward Vincenzo Iaquinta falling over on the slippery surface when in a good position and Giorgio Chiellini heading a corner just wide.
Left back Criscito, preferred to Fabio Grosso, had a shout for a penalty late in a lacklustre first half where Italy looked nothing like world champions.
Two enormous slices of fortune spared their blushes and there was almost another own goal late on when Gianluigi Buffon made a stunning save from Criscito’s botched clearance.
Italy’s problem in front of goal was underlined in injury time when Fabio Quagliarella hit the post and Iaquinta struck the other post on the rebound.
Italy top the group with 17 points from seven matches, while second-placed Ireland have 16 from eight and Bulgaria, in third, have 11 from seven. Georgia are bottom with three points. (Writing by Mark Meadows in Milan; Editing by Sonia Oxley; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)