Dramatic last-gasp winner for ‘Azzurri’

ROME – Italy put in a dominant display in their Nations League fixture against Poland on Sunday night, yet required a stoppage-time goal to break the deadlock.

 Left-back Cristiano Biraghi was first to a flick-on at the back post, tapping in to score his first international goal with practically the last kick of the game.

 The ‘azzurri’ controlled the contest from start to finish and deserved to win by more than a single goal. Both Jorginho and Federico Chiesa struck the woodwork in a first-half full of chances for the Italians. Poland ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny was frequently called upon to keep his side in the game, making multiple quality saves.

 The siege continued after the break, as Juventus’ Federico Bernadeschi headed a clear chance wide from only six yards. A small fightback from Poland through Kamil Grosicki and star-man Robert Lewandowski was snuffed out by some excellent shot-stopping from Gianluigi Donnarumma.

 Biraghi’s goal gave Italy their first win under Mancini since his first game in charge, a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in May. It also guarantees their place in the top tier of the next edition of the Nations League. They now face Portugal in November, with an outside chance of reaching the Final Four. A win on Nov. 17 would put them at the top of the group, but Portugal would then have the chance just three days later against Poland to retake that position.

 Regardless, the victory is a positive sign of Italy’s, albeit slow, renaissance under Mancini, who is beginning to instil his style into the players. 70% possession is a sign of things to come, as Corriere dello Sport hailed the ‘sarrismo’ on show, a reference to former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri’s distinctive attacking play.