Simone Zaza and Leonardo Bonucci gave Italy an impressive 2-0 victory in Norway to open their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Antonio Conte made his debut on the bench in a 2-0 friendly win over Holland, but this was his first competitive match and the opening Euro 2016 qualifier. Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli were suspended, while Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Daniel Osvaldo were among those injured. Gigi Buffon and Alessandro Florenzi stepped in for Salvatore Sirigu and Marchisio, but the rest of the line-up remained the same as against the Netherlands.
The Azzurri have won on Norwegian soil only once, 3-1 in a May 1937 friendly, drawing twice and losing the other two games.
Zaza just failed to make contact with a Matteo Darmian assist from six yards, while Florenzi scuffed his volley at the goalkeeper.
Sassuolo striker Zaza got his first Italy goal at senior level, his shot from a tight angle taking a deflection off Havard Nordtveit’s shin to wrong-foot Orjan Haskjold Nyland at the near post. Zaza is already in the history books as the first Sassuolo player to earn an Italy cap.
Norway fought back and Joshua King had a couple of efforts deflected off target, but Nyland also beat away an Emanuele Giaccherini snapshot.
The hosts took on more of the initiative in the second half, so Manuel Pasqual came on, moving Mattia De Sciglio to the right flank.
It proved an inspired substitution, as Pasqual’s first contribution was to whip a cross to the back post for Leonardo Bonucci’s free header. The defender ghosted in behind the Norwegian defence from six yards to score his third Italy goal, the first since September 2010.
Zaza almost bagged a brace with his strike that smacked against the crossbar, while Florenzi’s diving header on the rebound was incredibly kept out by Nyland’s foot.
Moments later Zaza had another fantastic chance with a chipped finish over the on-rushing goalkeeper, but Vegard Forren rushed back to clear off the line.
There were worrying scenes in stoppages, as Immobile was stretchered off.
Norway 0-2 Italy
Scorers: Zaza 16 (I), Bonucci 62 (I)
Norway: Nyland; Elabdellaoui, Nordtveit, Forren, Flo; Skjelbred (Pedersen 75), Johansen, Jenssen (Tettey 70); King, Nielsen (Elyounoussi 50), Daehli
Italy: Buffon; Ranocchia, Bonucci, Astori; Darmian (Pasqual 61), De Rossi, Giaccherini, Florenzi (Poli 87), De Sciglio; Zaza (Destro 84), Immobile
Ref: Masic (SRB)
Picture credit: @simone10z
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