Italy took a while to break Greece down, but a Jorginho penalty and deflected Federico Bernardeschi strike guarantee Euro 2020 qualification with seven wins out of seven.
The Azzurri mathematically secure their qualification for Euro 2020 with three matches to spare, a new record for Italy. Roberto Mancini had to do without several players, including Alessandro Florenzi, Emerson Palmieri, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Giorgio Chiellini and Stefano Sensi, so Francesco Acerbi and Leonardo Spinazzola were given rare starts. Greece had Giorgos Masouras suspended, but were also practically out of the running for the second qualifying spot.
Italy played in their third-choice green kit, the first time it had been worn since 1954’s 2-0 win over Argentina, which was also at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Danilo D’Ambrosio had a rare start due to the shortage of right-backs, but suffered a heavy knock to the knee in the opening minutes. As he was still limping, Greece created a good scoring opportunity, Gianluigi Donnarumma made a one-handed save at the near post on Efthymis Koulouris.
Italy had practically constant possession, but couldn’t break down the Greek wall of players in defence. Lorenzo Insigne fired over on the half-volley and Nicolò Barella’s effort was deflected for a corner, but Federico Chiesa went off with a muscular problem, replaced by Federico Bernardeschi.
The Nazionale had 72 per cent possession in the first half, but no shots on target. They were moving it around quicker after the break, Bernardeschi blasting over from distance, while Insigne couldn’t keep his finish down after a Marco Verratti chipped pass.
Immobile only glanced a Leonardo Spinazzola cross, but got a clean header on D’Ambrosio’s from the right, forcing Alexandros Paschalakis to fingertip it round the far post.
Greece were increasingly pinned back into their own final third, but broke on the counter and Koulouris only hit the side-netting at the back stick after Dimitrios Limnios rolled it across the six-yard box.
However, the deadlock was finally broken when Verratti and Insigne combined in the area, the Napoli man’s shot charged down by a blatant Andreas Bouchalakis handball for a penalty. Jorginho confirmed his specialist status by converting from the spot, sending Paschalakis the wrong way.
Insigne blasted wide after a short corner and Bakasetas shinned from a promising position, but Italy doubled their lead with a hopeful Bernardeschi strike from distance that was deflected into the far bottom corner.
It was nearly 3-0, as Insigne kept the volley low on a Bernardeschi floated ball over the defence, but Paschalakis used his legs to parry.
Italy 2-0 Greece
Jorginho pen 63 (I), Bernardeschi 78 (I)
Italy: G Donnarumma; D'Ambrosio, Bonucci, Acerbi, Spinazzola; Barella (Zaniolo 87), Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa (Bernardeschi 39), Immobile (Belotti 79), Insigne
Greece: Paschalakis; Bakakis, Chatzidiakos, Siovas, Stafylidis; Zeca, Kourbelis, Bouchalakis (Giannoulis 75); Bakasetas (Mantalos 79); Limnios, Koulouris (Donis 67)
Ref: Karasev (RUS)
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