Saturday June 8 2019
Euro 2020: Azzurri rule Athens

Italy dominated Greece in Athens and ran riot with three goals in a 10-minute spell, as they go three points clear at the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group.

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The Azzurri continued their 100 per cent record in Euro 2020 qualifying with 11 goals scored and none conceded, beating a very defensive Greece side who practically used no recognised strikers in their starting XI. Cristiano Biraghi, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Matteo Politano were injured, so Lorenzo Insigne and Emerson Palmieri were picked.

These nations had crossed paths nine times before with only one Greek victory, 2-1 at home in a friendly back in March 1972, five Italy wins and three draws.

Carlos Zeca made a decisive last-ditch tackle to stop Andrea Belotti going clear, almost scoring an own goal, while Salvatore Sirigu smothered a Dimitri Siovas chest and volley, then Belotti blasted over from Insigne’s assist.

Italy broke the deadlock after 23 minutes when Belotti left Roma defender Kostas Manolas standing with a sudden change of pace, his pull-back going behind Insigne and Chiesa for Barella to side-foot home from 12 yards. The Cagliari midfielder had followed the move well and was in the right place to take advantage.

Greece had to open up a little more as they sought an equaliser, which created the spaces Italy were looking for. Insigne cut inside from the left and placed a right-foot curler into the far top corner, his first international goal since March 2018.

The Nazionale ran riot and completed their rout of three goals in 10 minutes. A corner was taken short and Emerson Palmieri’s cross surprised Sokratis Papastathopoulos, allowing Leonardo Bonucci the glancing header to bounce in off the inside of the far post.

It would’ve been 4-0, but Barella forced a desperate save and Insigne couldn’t turn in the rebound after a mad scramble.

Greece made two substitutions at half-time, but Barella tested the goalkeeper from the edge of the box after a long passing move, while Andreas Samaris and Giorgos Masouras were both fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for late challenges.

Salvatore Sirigu made his first save on 69 minutes, flying to palm away a Kostas Fortounis half-volley after a corner, but Vassilis Barkas had to rush off his line and use his torso to deny Insigne when sent clear by a Federico Chiesa pass.

Jorginho and Mattia De Sciglio gave the ball away cheaply a couple of times, but the Greek finishing failed to make the most of these gifts.

Chiesa also missed a sitter, ballooning over from seven yards on what should’ve been a simple tap-in as Belotti rolled across. Barkas got his fingertips to an Alessandro Florenzi scorcher late on and then palmed an Insigne low curler out of the far bottom corner.

The change in Mancini’s approach was clear from the statistics beyond the goals, as Italy completed 689 passes compared to 265 for the hosts.

Greece 0-3 Italy

Barella 23 (I), Insigne 30 (I), Bonucci 33 (I)

Greece: Barkas; Papastathopoulos, Manolas, Siovas; Stafylidis, Fortounis, Kourbelis (Siopis 46), Zeca, Samaris (Bakasetas 77); Masouras, Kolovos (Mavrias 46)

Italy: Sirigu; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson (De Sciglio 68); Barella, Jorginho, Verratti (Pellegrini 81); Chiesa, Belotti (Bernardeschi 84), Insigne

Ref: Taylor (ENG)

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