International

Belotti brace against 10-man Armenia extends Italy's perfect start

2019-09-05 21:53
(File)

Yerevan - Andrea Belotti bagged a brace as Italy saw off 10-man Armenia 3-1 to extend their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a fifth straight win on Thursday.

Roberto Mancini's side had trailed after 11 minutes in Yerevan when Aleksandre Karapetyan got just the second goal past Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Italy goal in five qualifying games.

But the forward, who plays for Russian club Sochi, went from hero to villan when he was sent off for a second yellow card just before the break leaving his side a man down.

Torino captain Belotti got Italy back level on 28 minutes and added a second 10 minutes from time after substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini scored his first Italy goal.

Four-time world champions Italy have put their failure to qualify for last year's World Cup behind them and are top of Group J with maximum 15 points, and on course for the Euro 2020 opening match at home in Rome next June.

Armenia are third in the group with six points from five games, behind Finland who have nine points from four games.

"I said that this was a difficult game, and so it was," said Mancini.

"This increases the value of our victory.

"Paradoxically the red card put us in difficulty because they focused more on defending and reduced the spaces further.

"Physically they were much ahead of us, we had difficulties at the start but then we settled down."

Mancini dropped young guns Moise Kean and Nicolo Zaniolo as punishment for being regularly late during the Under-21 European Championships at home in June.

Belotti was joined up front in an attacking trident by Juventus forward Federico Bernardeschi and Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, 35, was missing as he recovers from surgery on a cruciate ligament knee injury.

And the Armenians piled the pressure on for the first 10 minutes with a slip-up by Inter Milan defender Nicolo Barella allowing Karapetyan to break through for the opener.

Belotti got the Azzurri back on track after 28 minutes following good work by Chelsea defender Emerson Palmieri following a corner with Belotti meeting the curling cross to prod into the net.

Bernardeschi hit the post just after with Belotti also missing a chance before the break as he failed to connect with a Chiesa cross.

But Italy got off the hook when Karapetyan received a second yellow card for a high elbow on defender Leonardo Bonucci.

Mancini made changes around the hour mark with Chiesa making way for Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stefano Sensi replacing Barella.

And Roma midfielder Pellegrini nodded in after 77 minutes, and three minutes later Belotti doubled his account with a deflected shot following good work from Sensi.

Italy travel to second-placed Finland on Sunday with Armenia hosting Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 

Read more on:    italy  |  euro 2020  |  soccer city

 

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