Federico Bernardeschi, Andrea Belotti, Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy conquered Liechtenstein 5-0, allowing Roberto Mancini to match the all-time Italy record of nine straight wins.
The Azzurri had already qualified for Euro 2020 top of their group with a 100 per cent record after seven games, so Marco Verratti was the only remaining player from the XI that beat Greece 2-0 on Saturday and given the captain’s armband. Giovanni Di Lorenzo of Napoli received his debut, with first starts for Vincenzo Grifo and Nicolò Zaniolo. Liechtenstein were fresh from a 1-1 draw with Armenia, having also held Greece 1-1, but Andreas Malin was only fit for the bench.
These nations had met three times before, the Nazionale winning all three with 15 goals scored and none conceded. This result is an historic one, though, as Mancini equals the all-time record of nine consecutive victories set by Vittorio Pozzo in 1938-39.
It was a dramatic start, as after 40 seconds Salvatore Sirigu had to use his legs to parry a Dennis Salanovic angled drive and Gianluca Mancini put it out for a corner. However, Italy countered from that set play and scored with Cristiano Biraghi pulling back from the left for Federico Bernardeschi to blast into the roof of the net from 12 yards. It was only 110 seconds in.
Sirigu made another save on Salanovic, while Bernardeschi scuffed his volley on a corner and Zaniolo fired straight at the goalkeeper.
Verratti went down under a clumsy challenge in the box, but the referee waved play on, while Andrea Belotti’s half-volley was charged down by Jens Hofer.
Bernardeschi smashed a free kick into the goalkeeper’s arms, while Sirigu fingertipped a long-range Salanovic snapshot round the post. Sirigu ran a risk under pressure from Seyhan Yildiz in first half stoppages.
After the restart, Belotti seemed to be fairly clearly hauled down by his jersey, but the referee waved away penalty appeals and there is no VAR in these qualifiers. The Torino striker was fired up, hitting the side-netting and sending another shot wide, while a corner was knocked on for Zaniolo, his effort charged down at the back post by Yildiz.
Bryan Cristante saw his attempt from a corner cleared off the line by Yildiz, then as the move continued, Biraghi saw his strike palmed round the post. Stephan El Shaarawy made his first appearance for Italy since moving to Shanghai Shenhua.
Sirigu had to make a genuinely difficult save on Salanovic’s curler from 14 yards on 65 minutes.
After a series of Italy corners, they finally managed to double their lead with Belotti’s fourth goal past Liechtenstein. A corner found Il Gallo for a header at the far post, placed back across the face of goal into the bottom corner.
Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali also made his senior Italy debut, but it was Alessio Romagnoli who got his first Azzurri goal. A corner was cleared only so far as El Shaarawy, whose cross from the left found Romagnoli unmarked for a header at the back post, Benjamin Buchel only getting a hand to it from close range.
Buchel did get both gloves to push an El Shaarawy scorcher over the bar moments later, the Little Pharaoh eventually getting on the scoresheet when he sprung the offside trap on a Cristante through ball.
There was still time for another goal in stoppages, Belotti’s header from close range on a Di Lorenzo cross.
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
Bernardeschi 2 (I), Belotti 70, 92 (I), Romagnoli 77 (I), El Shaarawy 82 (I)
Liechtenstein: B Buchel; Rechsteiner, Kaufmann, Hofer, Göppel; M Buchel; Yildiz (Wolfinger 83), Polverino (N Frick 56), Hasler, Salanovic; Gubser (Y Frick 63)
Italy: Sirigu; Di Lorenzo, G Mancini, Romagnoli, Biraghi (Bonucci 88); Zaniolo (El Shaarawy 63), Cristante, Verratti; Bernardeschi (Tonali 74), Belotti, Grifo
Ref: Treimanis (LVA)