Football: Italy thrash Liechtenstein but stay second

Lorenzo Insigne celebrates his majestic first-half volley

UDINE- Italy secured their fifth World Cup qualifying win from six matches as they cruised past perennial whipping boys Liechtenstein 5-0 at the Stadio Friuli in Udine, Sunday.

 The Azurri produced a dominant display, accumulating 37 shots at the Liechtenstein goal. Legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was not forced to make a single save at the other end as he moved to fifth in the all-time list of international caps.

 Despite having the lion’s share of possession during the first half and creating numerous opportunities, Italy had to wait until the 35th minute to break the deadlock, with Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne smashing home a superb volley past Liechtenstein keeper Peter Jehie.

 Shortly after the break Andrea Belotti latched onto Lorenzo Insigne’s through ball to score Italy’s second, before substitute Eder volleyed in a third on 72 minutes.

 Federico Bernadeschi thundered home the fourth from long range on 82 minutes and then striker Manolo Gabbiadini rubbed salt into Liechtenstein wounds by adding a fifth in stoppage time. That goal was the Southampton stiker’s first in international football since 2015.

 “The first half was useful because it taught us that if you try to do too much, you end up doing nothing,” said Italy headcoach Giampiero Ventura.

 “Everything went well in the second half where our play was more lucid,” he added.

 Despite the win, Italy remain in second place in Group G tied on 16 points with leaders Spain but behind on goal difference after the Spanish squeezed past Macedonia 2-1.

 Only the winners of the group are guaranteed a spot at next year’s World Cup finals in Russia, with the side finishing in second forced to compete in a play-off fixture to determine their fate.

 The crucial match between the two nations, which will most likely decide the outcome of the group, takes place in Spain in September.