Wednesday March 31 2021
Lithuania 0-2 Italy: Azzurri do just enough

Stefano Sensi came off the bench to immediately score and Ciro Immobile converted a last-gasp penalty for another 2-0 Italy win in Lithuania.

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The Azzurri won their first two 2022 World Cup qualifiers 2-0 against both Northern Ireland and Bulgaria, but rotated the entire outfield 10, especially after losing Marco Verratti and Alessandro Florenzi to injury. Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi received his Italy debut, with Matteo Pessina getting his first start, while Alessandro Bastoni, Gianluca Mancini, Stephan El Shaarawy and Federico Bernardeschi also stepped in.

It was a change from the usual 4-3-3, as they seemed to attack with three at the back, moving to four when defending.

The stadium in Vilnius has an artificial pitch, so Lorenzo Pellegrini and Emerson Palmieri tried to take advantage of an awkward bounce, testing the goalkeeper from distance early on.

Bernardeschi’s cross only skimmed the head of El Shaarawy, then the Roma man wasted a golden opportunity created by Pessina, trying to flick it with the outside of the boot from six yards, not getting enough power or precision.

Emerson Palmieri forced the goalkeeper into a flying save at the near top corner with his ferocious strike from outside the box.

Federico Chiesa and Stefano Sensi came on at half-time, and they made an immediate impact. Within two minutes, Chiesa had stung the goalkeeper’s gloves with a powerful shot, it came out to the edge of the area, where Sensi smashed into the near corner to give Italy the lead.

The Azzurri were visibly transformed, stepping up several gears. Svedkauskas needed a desperate double save on Pessina from 12 yards and the Ciro Immobile follow-up.

Bernardeschi’s cross found Locatelli at the back stick for a fine volley, again denied by a reaction save from the former Roma academy goalkeeper.

Immobile did everything right except the finish, twisting and turning to make two defenders dizzy, but the angled drive skimmed the far post. The Lazio striker wasted another huge chance, as he intercepted a poor backpass, but narrowed the angle too much and Svedkauskas managed the save.

The first genuine Lithuanian opportunity came at the 66th minute, Toloi doing enough to make sure Fedor Chernych nodded wide.

Immobile again was horribly wasteful, steering the ball wide from six yards when Leonardo Spinazzola had floated the cross onto his head.

Locatelli was harshly booked when he seemed to get the ball cleanly, and it means he will be suspended for the next match.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make a save when Alessandro Bastoni’s error sparked a counter, allowing Tautvydas Eliosius to meet it at the back post.

Svedkaukas made another save on Immobile, who was set up by Sensi, while Locatelli fired straight at him from point-blank range.

There was bad news for Alessandro Bastoni, who went off in the final minutes after landing heavily on his back.

With the last kick of the game, Kazlauskas tripped Nicolò Barella right just inside the box and Immobile converted the penalty to finally get his goal.

Lithuania 0-2 Italy

Sensi 48 (I), Immobile pen 94 (I)

Lithuania: Svedkauskas; Mikoliunas (Gaspuitis 74), Beneta, Girdvainis, Vaitkunas; Dapkus, Simkus (Petravicius 83), Slivka; Novikovas, Sirgedas (Eliosius 58); Cernych (Kazlauskas 74)

Italy: G Donnarumma; Toloi, Bastoni (Acerbi 89), Mancini, Emerson (Spinazzola 56); Pellegrini (Sensi 46), Locatelli, Pessina (Barella 62); El Shaarawy (Chiesa 46), Immobile, Bernardeschi

Ref: Raczkowski (POL)