Dominant triumph keeps Azzurri perfect
Roberto Mancini's Italy made it eight wins from eight in Euro 2020 qualifying Group J as they claimed an emphatic win in Liechtenstein.
Italy continued their perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying as Andrea Belotti's double helped them claim an emphatic 5-0 away win over Group J minnows Liechtenstein.
Federico Bernardeschi scored as Italy secured their place at next year's finals with a 2-0 triumph over Greece on Saturday, and the Juventus winger wasted little time in making his mark on Tuesday as he rattled in the Azzurri's fastest goal since June 2013.
The Azzurri were fortunate not to have fallen behind inside the opening 60 seconds, with Dennis Salanovic proving a real menace to the visitors throughout, though Salvatore Sirigu came out on top in an entertaining duel.
Sirigu's saves set the stage for a late Italy charge that included four goals in the last 20 minutes.
Belotti made sure of the points before Alessio Romagnoli and substitute Stephan El Shaarawy got in on the act - with Italy's striker helping himself to a second in stoppage time.
1:48 - #Bernardeschi's goal against Liechtenstein is the earliest for Italy ?? in all competitions since Giaccherini's in June 2013 (after only 18 seconds) in a friendly game v Haiti. Acceleration.#LiechtensteinItalia pic.twitter.com/zyM9y7wwIm— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) October 15, 2019
Italy could have been behind inside the first minute - Salanovic forcing Sirigu into action before Gianluca Mancini blocked Maximilian Goppel's follow-up - but the visitors were soon ahead.
Cristiano Biraghi drilled in a cut-back which sat up nicely for Bernardeschi to hammer home from the edge of the box, though Sirigu had to be alert again from a Salanovic effort to maintain Italy's lead three minutes later.
Sirigu was troubled once more before the break, leaping to his right to tip a dipping shot wide from the lively Salanovic.
Belotti spurned two presentable opportunities early in the second half and Salanovic would have made Italy pay if not for another excellent Sirigu stop.
The Azzurri had their second, though, when Belotti headed in from Vincenzo Grifo's corner.
Romagnoli got in on the act with his first international goal seven minutes later – goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel failing to keep out the defender's close-range header after a corner from substitute El Shaarawy, who slotted in a fourth from Bryan Cristante's pass.
There was still time for Italy to grab another, Belotti turning in Giovanni Di Lorenzo's cross to compound Liechtenstein's misery.
What does it mean? Mancini able to mix it up
With qualification already ensured, Mancini, who has now led Italy to nine successive wins, equalling a 70-year record, made 10 changes to the team which started against Greece and it is likely the former Manchester City and Inter coach - who has preferred to blood Italy's young talents whenever possible - will now be able to use the remaining qualifiers as ways to test some fresh faces.
Belotti haunts Liechtenstein once more
Torino striker Belotti has now scored eight goals for Italy, with five of those coming against Liechtenstein.
He was understandably frustrated after squandering two chances shortly after the break, but made no mistake with his next opportunity, before doubling down in stoppage time.
Salanovic left frustrated
The 23-year-old was a real livewire for Liechtenstein and, on another day, could easily have scored four goals. All of his shots were well struck but, to the hosts' chagrin, he found Sirigu in excellent form.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia await for Italy in their final qualifiers, while Liechtenstein travel to Finland - who will qualify with a win - in their next outing.
- Journalist at JJA Sport Studio: Football / Soccer
- Leader columnist department