Friday May 31 2013
Four-star Italy thump San Marino

Italy’s second string side comfortably swept San Marino aside 4-0 with Andrea Poli, Alberto Gilardino, Andrea Pirlo and Alberto Aquilani.

This friendly was played at the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna, just a stone’s throw away from the Republic of San Marino, so Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino started in their ‘local’ venue along with Atalanta’s Giacomo Bonaventura. It was a warm-up for the World Cup qualifier with the Czech Republic and the Confederations Cup, but Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Montolivo and Andrea Barzagli were sidelined.

This was the first time two Bologna players started an Italy match since 1967, while Bonaventura received his Azzurri debut and almost scored in the opening six minutes, but was denied by the goalkeeper from six yards.

Luca Antonelli set that opportunity up and the Genoa full-back had a very bright start. Andrea Pirlo fired well over, as did Diamanti from a free kick. Alberto Aquilani forced a desperate save out of Aldo Simoncini at the near post and from the resulting corner Christian Maggio had the ball in the net, but was flagged offside.

Simoncini beat away a Diamanti snapshot and this time Gilardino was offside when tapping in from eight yards. The San Marino goalkeeper was again excellent with a one-handed reaction save on Gilardino’s volley from six yards and managed to smother Bonaventura’s follow-up too.

Italy finally broke through on 28 minutes when Andrea Poli pounced on a loose ball just outside the box and nutmegged Simoncini with his angled drive at the near post. It was the Sampdoria midfielder’s first Azzurri strike.

Pirlo went on a mazy run, but his toe-poked finish was beaten away from close range. Simoncini performed another fine save when Aquilani was one-on-one, but Gilardino got hold of the follow-up to score in his ‘home’ stadium.

Gila turned another Antonelli assist just wide, then the Genoa man went for goal himself and hit the side-netting from six yards, but hurt his ankle during the move and was replaced by Mattia De Sciglio. Gilardino ran on to a long ball and pulled back for Diamanti, but his club teammate forced another Simoncini save.

Prandelli changed the entire front three in one fell swoop, introducing Mario Balotelli, Alessio Cerci and debutant Marco Sau.

Pirlo scored the third with a sensational free kick into the top corner that dipped mercilessly over the wall.

Gigi Buffon finally had a save to make, of sorts, needing two touches to get an Andy Selva snapshot from distance under control. Cerci’s mazy run pulled back into the six-yard box, but San Marino just about managed to clear before Sau could tap in.

Balotelli’s free kick went round the wall to smack against the base of the upright, while Aquilani had another goal disallowed and fired a powerful but central shot at the goalkeeper.

Aquilani did get on the scoresheet eventually, tapping in from a yard after Valentini fumbled a low Pirlo free kick.

Valentini was considerably better with a fingertip save moments later on Balotelli’s curler from distance. Aquilani attempted an audacious overhead kick on Balotelli’s cross, but accidentally kicked Rinaldi in the face.

Balotelli powered forward from midfield through the entire San Marino defence only to drill inches wide of the upright. The Milan striker went even closer when nodding an Ignazio Abate cross on to the bar and Sau turned the follow-up off target.

Italy 4-0 San Marino

Scorers: Poli 28 (I), Gilardino 34 (I), Pirlo 49 (I), Aquilani 78 (I)

Italy: Buffon (Sirigu 70); Maggio (Abate 76), Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Antonelli (De Sciglio 44); Poli, Pirlo, Aquilani; Diamanti (Cerci 49), Gilardino (Balotelli 49), Bonaventura (Sau 49)

San Marino: A Simoncini (Valentini 46); F Rinaldi, Della Valle (G Bollini 70), D Simoncini, F Vitaioli; Cervellini, F Bollini (Buscarini 67); Coppini (Cibelli 46), M Vitaioli (D Rinaldi 77), Gasperoni (Berretti 59); Selva

Ref: Borg (MAL)