Dominant Italy brush aside pisspoor Liechtenstein
ROME - A dominant Italy put six goals past a poor Liechtenstein side as Fabio Quagliarella’s brace helped the Azzurri brush aside their opponents to make it two wins from two in their Euro 2020 qualifying group.
Roberto Mancini’s men, who came into the match off the back of their first home victory in 17 games, picked up where they left off against Finland. They dominated possession from the off and dictated a tempo that Liechtenstein struggled to keep up with.
Quagliarella was joined up front by Inter’s Matteo Politano and Juventus’ Moise Kean, and the three linked up wonderfully, proving a real handful from the off for a Liechtenstein defence that were in for a torrid evening out.
In fact, Italy were unlucky not to be 1-0 up within the first ten minutes. It took some good fortune and a fantastic reflex stop from Benjamin Büchel in the Liechtenstein net to keep the scores level.
However, Italy did not have to wait long as their pressure paid off soon after as the game moved just past the quarter hour mark.
Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi was the beneficiary of some fantastic Leonardo Spinazzola work down the left, as the Juventus man turned his defender inside out before delivering a peach of a cross for Sensi to powerfully header into the top corner.
Italy then exploded into life, as Quaglieralla had the ball in the back of the net a minute later, only to be ruled out for offside, before both Bonucci and Mancini blazed over as Liechtenstein repeatedly failed to clear their lines.
Italy did eventually double their lead through Marco Veratti 31 minutes in. The in-form Paris Saint Germain midfielder did well to win the ball back after his sloppy past, before cutting in between two defenders and curling a peach of a shot into the far corner from the left side of the box.
There was no respite for the away side as Italy continued to pile forwards, and the pressure told as Italy were awarded a penalty three minutes later. Liechtenstein forward Nicolas Hasler handled a goal bound shot in the area, receiving a yellow card and granting Quagliarella the chance he needed to score his first international goal in almost ten years.
When Quagliarella duly dispatched the penalty, he became Italy’s oldest ever goal scorer at 36.
He soon had more to celebrate as he secured his brace with another effort from the penalty spot on the stroke of half time. Daniel Kaufmann gave away the foul, receiving a red card and reducing Liechtenstein were to 10 men in the process, after he blocked a certain goal with his upper arm on the goal line after some slick Italian attacking play.
Italy picked up where they left off in the second half, and Roma teenager Nicolò Zaniolo coming on for only his second appearance for the national side.
Zaniolo almost had an immediate impact, his good work going forwards requiring a string of last-ditch tackles from the Liechtenstein defence twice in two minutes to deny him his first international goal.
Zaniolo and fellow teenager Kean continued to push forwards, and some wonderful skill from the latter down the left flank set up Romagnoli for a what should have been tap in at the near post, only for the centre-back to put his shot a yard wide.
Kean, who had earlier hit the crossbar, finally got what he deserved for his tireless performance as he bagged his second goal in two games with a header from three yards out, making him the youngest Italian player in history to score in two consecutive games.
Substitute Leonardo Pavoletti wrapped up a glorious Italy performance with his side’s sixth goal with 15 minutes left on the clock. His initial header was well saved by Büchel but Pavoletti was the quickest to react to a loose ball, smashing in from close range.
Italy now top their group having won both their matches so far, with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece in joint second place on four points.
Italy will meet both these sides in quick succession when the Euro qualifiers return at the start of June and will know that two strong performances will stand them in good stead for qualification for the 2020 tournament.