Fabio Quagliarella made history with a brace of penalties, as Italy demolished 10-man Liechtenstein 6-0 with Marco Verratti, Stefano Sensi, Moise Kean and Leonardo Pavoletti on target.
The Azzurri started their Euro 2020 qualifiers with a 2-0 victory over Finland and hosted group minnows Liechtenstein at the Stadio Tardini in Parma. After losing Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa and Alessandro Florenzi, Roberto Mancini also said goodbye to injured Cristiano Piccini and Stephan El Shaarawy. There were seven changes, including Atalanta centre-back Gianluca Mancini given his senior debut as a makeshift right-back. Stefano Sensi and veteran Fabio Quagliarella stepped in for Nicolò and Ciro Immobile, with Moise Kean given his second Italy start after scoring against Finland.
This was 36-year-old Quagliarella’s first Azzurri start since June 2010, while his last competitive full cap was against Cyprus in October 2014, also curiously at the Stadio Tardini.
Quagliarella forced the first save after three minutes, while Sensi drilled just wide, but the pressure paid off when Leonardo Spinazzola floated in a cross from the right for Sassuolo midfielder Sensi’s precise header from 10 yards. It was his first senior Italy goal and surprising for the shortest player on the pitch.
This means the Azzurri’s last 16 goals have come from 16 different players.
Sensi almost added an assist, his divine through ball releasing Quagliarella, who tried to go round Benjamin Buchel, but the goalkeeper did just enough, while Matteo Politano fired straight at Buchel and Marco Verratti skimmed the bar.
Verratti did get his second ever Italy goal with a great solo effort, as he took advantage of a ricochet, dribbled between a crowd of Liechtenstein jerseys and curled the right-foot finish into the far bottom corner. His only previous strike was in a 1-1 friendly with the Netherlands in February 2013.
Moments later, Alessio Romagnoli’s effort from a corner was clawed off the line by Buchel and the following Verratti shot was charged down by Hasler’s arm for a penalty. Quagliarella stepped up and converted to make history, becoming the oldest ever player to score for Italy aged 36 years and 54 days.
The Azzurri kept pushing, as Politano’s ferocious volley was charged down by Michele Polverino and Kean cut back past defenders for a right-foot scorcher that bounced off the bar.
In first half stoppages, Quagliarella’s back-heel flick set up Verratti for a shot cleared off the line by Daniel Kaufmann’s shoulder. It seemed harsh, but the referee awarded another penalty and sent off the Liechtenstein defender.
Quagliarella stepped up and converted again, his brace ending the run of 18 Italy goals scored by 18 different players.
Spinazzola’s floated cross-shot was about to either creep in at the back post or find Kean for a tap-in, but Max Goppel hooked it away with a spectacular goal-line clearance.
Nicolò Zaniolo came off the bench and almost scored within 60 seconds, as his first touch was heavy and the shot was charged down by Andreas Malin.
Kean rolled across from the left for Alessio Romagnoli, who somehow prodded wide from five yards. The fifth goal saw Spinazzola float a cross to the back post, where Quagliarella knocked it down for Kean’s header from point-blank range. It was the 19-year-old’s second goal in as many starts for Italy.
Leonardo Pavoletti got his senior Azzurri debut and Quagliarella received a standing ovation as he left the Stadio Tardini field. It took four minutes for the Cagliari centre-forward to get on the scoresheet, as his header from a Spinazzola assist was well saved by Buchel, but Pavoloso pounced on the rebound.
Torino defender Armando Izzo also made his debut on a morale-boosting night for the Nazionale.
Italy 6-0 Liechtenstein
Sensi 17 (I), Verratti 31 (I), Quagliarella pens 35, 45 (I), Kean 70 (I), Pavoletti 76 (I)
Italy: Sirigu; Mancini, Bonucci (Izzo 79), Romagnoli, Spinazzola; Sensi, Jorginho (Zaniolo 57), Verratti; Politano, Quagliarella (Pavoletti 72), Kean
Liechtenstein: B Buchel; S Wolfinger, Kaufmann, Hoffer, Goppel; Wieser; Sele (Malin 46), Polverino, Wieser, Kuhne (Meier 68); Hasler, Salanovic (M Buchel 82)
Ref: Levnikov (RUS)
Sent off: Kaufmann 45 (L)