Belgium 0-2 Italy
An underestimated Italian side rocked Belgium this evening as goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pellè gave the Azzurri a 2-0 victory over the Red Devils.
Belgium at least looked like they could be threatening in the opening skirmishes with Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan’s fierce drive forcing a fine save from 38-year-old Italian Gianluigi Buffon. However Belgium were substandard for most of the first half with Romelu Lukaku barely getting a kick and Kevin de Bruyne unable to get into the game. Although Eden Hazard occasionally looked dangerous, he could not breakdown the Italian defence on his own.
The Italians broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute when center-back Leonardo Bonucci carved open the Belgium defence with a lofted ball from the halfway line. Giaccherini peeled away from his marker, took a touch with his left foot before clinically tucking the ball past Thibaut Courtois with his right.
With Belgium’s defence suddenly all over the place Courtois had to beat away a fierce drive from Antonio Candreva before Pelle planted a free header wide from a corner with the goal gaping. An alarmed Belgian side headed into the break a goal down.
Shortly after half-time De Bruyne finally came to life with a brilliant crossfield ball to Lukaku. The Everton striker’s first touch took him away from goal and as he lifted his shot over the advancing Buffon the ball curled across goal and narrowly wide of the upright. Courtois then kept Belgium in the game with a stunning one-handed save to repel a powerful close-range header from Pelle.
Lukaku’s disappointing evening was brought to an end with Divock Origi summoned from the bench, and the Liverpool man had a chance to equalise with nine minutes remaining – but headed De Bruyne’s cross over the crossbar. Belgium’s night was summed up a minute from time when Dries Mertens crossed into the area, Origi completely missed with an attempted header and the ball ricocheted between Marouane Fellaini’s legs before somehow ending up in the welcoming hands of Buffon.
The Belgian’s misery was compounded in injury time as the Italians broke away through substitute Ciro Immobile who supplied winger Antonio Candreva the winger couldn’t take on a shot for himself but spotted Pelle unmarked at the back post. A deft chip across goal teed up the ball for the Italian striker who smashed the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
Italy move to the top of Group E with Ireland and Sweden in joint second following their draw.
Man of the Match – Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy)
- Dries Mertens replaces Raja Nainggolan 62 mins
- Divock Origi replaces Romelu Lukaku 73 mins
- Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco replaces Laurent Ciman 75 mins
- Mattia De Sciglio replaces Matteo Darmian 59 mins
- Ciro Immobile replaces Eder 75 mins
- Thiago Motta replaces Daniele De Rossi 78 mins
Yellow cards :
Belgium – Jan Vertonghen.
Italy – Giorgio Chiellini, Eder, Leonardo Bonucci, Thiago Motta.