NEWS
Sunday September 8 2019
Euro 2020: Italy joy of six in Finland

Italy dominated for long periods in Tampere, but were only able to beat Finland 2-1 thanks to a controversial Jorginho penalty after Ciro Immobile broke his drought.

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The Azzurri maintain their 100 per cent record with six wins out of six, beating a Finnish side that had won all four with clean sheets since the opening 2-0 defeat in Udine in March. It was a head-to-head at the top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group J and Roberto Mancini made five changes from the XI that beat Armenia 3-1 on Thursday, as Marco Verratti was suspended, with Armando Izzo, Francesco Acerbi, Stefano Sensi, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Pellegrini coming in. Tim Sparv sat out a ban for the hosts, who moved to 5-4-1 in Tampere.

Italy were unbeaten against Finland since the 1912 Olympics, winning 12 and drawing only once, never conceding on Finnish soil.

The hosts had a strong start, Lassi Lappalainen – who is on loan to Montreal Impact from Bologna – cut off on a through ball by Leonardo Bonucci, and on the resulting corner Toivio couldn’t keep his finish on target.

Emerson Palmieri sprinted the length of the field to contain a dangerous Teemu Pukki counter and it proved costly, as the Chelsea man limped off with a muscular strain, introducing Alessandro Florenzi as a makeshift left-back adding to the injury crisis.

A magnificent Stefano Sensi volley was flying under the bar until Lukas Hradecky flew for an even more sensational fingertip save. Moments later, Nicolò Barella scuffed the finish on another good Sensi move, then Immobile’s glancing header on a Federico Chiesa cross skimmed the far post.

Florenzi’s low volley was smothered, Immobile tested the goalkeeper from a tight angle and Acerbi’s strike was deflected for a corner.

Sensi was on splendid form and his scorcher from the edge of the box whistled inches past the far post, then Hradecky again used his legs to deny Chiesa from a tight angle.

The deadlock was finally broken by an unexpected source, as Immobile nodded a Chiesa cross in off the underside of the bar at the back stick, his first Italy goal in two years. He hadn’t found the net for his country since September 5, 2017 against Israel, firing blanks for 10 games.

Finland had kept four consecutive clean sheets, not conceding since the 2-0 opening defeat to Italy in March, while they hadn’t conceded in six matches played in Tampere.

However, Sensi blighted what had been an excellent performance by giving the ball away and then tripping Pukki as he attempted to make up for it. Pukki converted the penalty with a powerful yet central strike to equalise, his .

This was the first goal Italy had conceded against Finland since 1976 and their first ever conceded on Finnish soil.

Moments later, the Azzurri were awarded an extremely harsh penalty, as Barella’s shot was charged down by Sauli Vaisanen, but the Chievo defender’s arm was across his chest. Jorginho converted into the near bottom corner, although Hradecky almost got his fingertips to it.

Andrea Belotti came off the bench and immediately stung Hradecky’s gloves from a tight angle, but it was a frantic finale with Finland throwing everything forward.

Finland 1-2 Italy

Immobile 59 (I), Pukki pen 72 (F), Jorginho pen 79 (I)

Finland: Hradecky; Granlund (Soiri 82), Toivio, Arajuuri, S Vaisanen, Uronan; Lod, Schuller (Kauko 87), Kamara, Lappalainen (Tuominen 75); Pukki

Italy: G Donnarumma; Izzo, Bonucci, Acerbi, Emerson (Florenzi 8); Sensi, Jorginho, Barella; Chiesa (Bernardeschi 72), Immobile (Belotti 76), Lo Pellegrini

Ref: Madden (SCO)