Dazzling Italy beat Poland to go top of the groupThe Azzurri put in a strong performance in Reggio Emilia. They took the lead in the 27th minute through a Jorginho penalty and doubled their lead late on through Berardi
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Jorginho’s converted penalty in the 27th minute and Domenico Berardi’s goal in the 83rd see Italy move to the top of their Nations League group, one point ahead of the Netherlands, who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1. It was an important night for the Rankings too - in perhaps the toughest period of Mancini’s tenure as Italy boss. Ahead of the game, Evani avoided talk of worries and instead reiterated a focus on team spirit, which has been incredibly prevalent in recent days.
And so it was tonight in Reggio Emilia, where Italy really pulled together and flexed their muscles. They found the right character and personality to continue this good run: 21 games unbeaten, 16 wins and five draws. Furthermore, Italy are currently the top seed draw for qualification to Qatar 2022.
THE GAME. – Italy looked to be in a crisis. The list of absentees - through injury and problems related to coronavirus - was a long one. Again Alberico Evani coached the side in place of Roberto Mancini, who himself is in self-isolation. Thus the Azzurri lined up in Reggio Emilia with Donnarumma in goal; Florenzi (captain on the night), Acerbi, Bastoni and Emerson in defence; Barella, Jorginho and Locatelli in midfield; and a front three of Insigne, Belotti and Bernardeschi.
Poland are of course a different side to Estonia and needed to be faced with the utmost concentration and desire. These are qualities, which the Azzurri displayed right from the off, in spite of slight issues for Florenzi and Belotti, who were not 100% fit but were nonetheless ready to give their all.
The first chance of the game fell to the Azzurri. In the 7th minute, Barella fed Bernardeschi with a backheel, whose effort was palmed away by Szczesny and turned behind for a corner by Bereszynski. Poland ventured forward for the first time in the 19th minute; Moder crossed in towards Lewandowski but Donnarumma claimed the high ball with no real stress.
Italy were on the hunt for the all-important opening goal and thought they had it in the 20th minute. Insigne put the ball in the back of the net but the linesman flagged for offside against Belotti. The Azzurri continued to press and got their reward in the 27th minute. Bernardeschi looked for Belotti in the box, but the big striker was pulled down by Krychowiak - penalty to Italy. Jorginho stepped up to take the spot-kick and stroked it home with his usual calmness - his fifth converted penalty for Italy. The first half finished with score at 1-0.
At the start of the second half, Barella’s shot went just wide and, eight minutes later, Insigne’s curling effort was deflected behind for a corner. Poland, who made three changes to start the second half, couldn’t manage to get any sort of foothold in the game. Evani made his first change in the 64th minute, Berardi replacing Bernardeschi. There was drama in the 72nd minute as Belotti’s effort looked to have struck Bednarek’s hands, but the referee remained stoic among Italy cries for a penalty.
Four minutes later, the Poles went down to ten men after Goralski received a second yellow card for a foul on Belotti, who was himself then replaced by Okaka. Italy doubled their lead with seven minutes to go; Berardi finished off a wonderful team move with a precise finish. There was still time before the end for two more changes, Di Lorenzo and El Shaarawy coming on. On Wednesday, Italy take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, while Poland take on the Netherlands.