Andrea Belotti was the star of the show with a brace as Italy conquered Liechtenstein 4-0 with the new 4-2-4 system.
Elsewhere in the group Spain made short work of Macedonia to remain joint top with Italy, but Israel earned a shock 3-0 victory away to nine-man Albania.
Giampiero Ventura finally scrapped the 3-5-2 system and unveiled his preferred 4-2-4 with Davide Zappacosta given his senior Azzurri debut. Marco Parolo was suspended with injuries ruling out among others Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Florenzi and Claudio Marchisio. Liechtenstein had lost their last seven competitive games and missed the likes of Nicolas Hasler, Max Goppel, Mathias Sele, Sandro Wolfinger and Robin Gubser.
The Azzurri hadn’t lost any of their last 53 qualifiers since a 3-1 to France in September 2006, notching up 39 victories and 14 draws between World Cup and European Championship tests.
It was a blistering start for the Azzurri, who already tested Peter Jehle with Jack Bonaventura’s half-volley before the opening goal.
Alessio Romagnoli soared to knock down a corner and Andrea Belotti was in the right place at the right time to flick it past the goalkeeper from close range. It was the type of goal Pippo Inzaghi was most famous for.
Moments later it was 2-0, as Belotti rose to nod a long ball into the path of Ciro Immobile to sweep past the shot-stopper with the inside of his boot from 12 yards.
This meant that between them Immobile and Belotti had scored six of Italy’s last seven goals.
Antonio Candreva skimmed the far post and Immobile’s header struck the side-netting from point-blank range on a chipped Candreva cross.
Belotti was set to score a second from a corner, but Franz Burgmeier performed a decisive goal-line clearance.
Mattia De Sciglio dribbled to the by-line and his deflected pull-back was tapped in by Candreva from eight yards for the third goal.
Belotti had the ball in the net again with a stunning back-heel flick volley from six yards, but had wandered into an offside position.
It was only a warning, as the Torino hitman did add a fourth moments later, controlling a chipped Bonaventura assist over the top and keeping the finish low from a tight angle.
The last time Italy scored four goals in the first half was in January 1987 against Malta. It was also their biggest away victory since Cyprus in December 1990.
Gigi Buffon had to rush out of his area to clear on an under-hit Zappacosta back-pass that was straight into the path of Dennis Salanovic.
Italy were less sparkling in the second half, so introduced Lorenzo Insigne. He was reunited with his former Pescara teammates Immobile and Marco Verratti.
The Napoli starlet made an immediate impact, a wonderful volleyed flick assist at the by-line for Belotti, whose shot was deflected into the arms of Jehle.
It should’ve been a hat-trick for Belotti, but his glancing header was wide on an Insigne cross from six yards. The Toro striker also had a couple of chances ruined by offside positions and substitute Simone Zaza fired straight at the goalkeeper.
Zaza also attempted an audacious overhead kick and in stoppages his finish from close range was denied by Jehle's foot.
Liechtenstein 0-4 Italy
Belotti 11, 44 (I), Immobile 12 (I), Candreva 32 (I)
Liechtenstein: Jehle; Rechsteiner, Polverino, Kaufmann, Oehri; Christen, Martin Buchel, Wieser, Marcel Buchel, Burgmeier; Salanovic
Italy: Buffon; Zappacosta, Bonucci, Romagnoli, De Sciglio; De Rossi, Verratti; Candreva (Eder 74), Immobile (Zaza 81), Belotti, Bonaventura (Insigne 67)
Ref: Bebek (CRO)
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