Nazionale A

The European champions put on a show in Reggio Emilia, scoring a feast of goals on the way to victory against Lithuania

Italy gain three precious points for Qatar 2022. Kean broke the deadlock on 11 minutes, followed by an own goal by Utkus, a Raspadori goal and another by Kean. Di Lorenzo scored in the second half, while Scamacca made his debut

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The European champions put on a show in Reggio Emilia, scoring a feast of goals on the way to victory against Lithuania

All it took was a win and a glut of goals to forget the disappointment of the two draws with Bulgaria and Switzerland, and in their attempts to increase their goal difference, Italy made no mistake tonight. In Reggio Emilia, the Azzurri beat Lithuania 5-0 in the third and final match of this September window, adding three precious points to their tally in the qualifying group for the World Cup in Qatar 2022 and keeping Switzerland at a distance, who couldn’t get beyond the draw against Northern Ireland in the match played at the same time in Belfast. Italy now sit six points ahead of the Swiss, but have played two games more.

With this victory, the thirty-seventh consecutive unbeaten result for the Azzurri, Italy also enter the history books: It is a world record, with no team ever achieving such a streak before.

MATCH REPORT - For the fourth time in their history, the Azzurri prepared to play in Reggio Emilia, where they won 4-0 against Lithuania in the first match played there in November 1995, before beating Israel 1-0 and Poland 2-0 respectively in September 2017 and November 2020. Changes were practically obligatory for Roberto Mancini tonight who, after being forced to let go of ten players in the last 48 hours, made eight changes to the starting line-up, including a brand new attack. With Donnarumma in goal, the coach lined up Di Lorenzo, Acerbi, Bastoni, and Biraghi in defence, while in midfield Pessina and Cristante lined up either side of Jorginho in the middle, who was also made captain for the evening. In attack, two youngsters born in 2000, Raspadori – making his first start - and Kean lined up alongside the more experienced Bernardeschi.

It was a surprise start for Lithuania who earned a free kick in the first minute, with Verbiksas’ effort hitting off Pessina and going out for a corner. Then in the 9th minute, a volleyed shot from Verbiksas tested Donnarumma. That was all. Immediately afterwards Italy took control and did not relinquish. With eleven minutes on the clock, Kean latched onto a loose back pass from Novikovas near the left corner of the opponent's box, before hitting a right-footed shot into the bottom corner at the near post, putting the Azzurri in front.

The second came just three minutes later: Raspadori was passed the ball with his back to the goal, he turned and kicked it toward the far post, with Utkus then intercepting it and deflecting it into his own goal, displacing Šetkus. Focused and determined, the Azzurri wouldn’t allow their opponents back into the game, as they struggled to create many clear attacks.

And, following a Bernardeschi effort which missed the target, Raspadori took control in the 24th minute and this time celebrated his first Azzurri goal in front of an audience: Starting from Bernardeschi who played a low pass through for Di Lorenzo, the full-back then fizzed in a low cross which was parried by Lasickas straight into the path of Raspadori, who hit it first time with his right to make it 3-0.

Just as the young man with high hopes was getting ready to celebrate and take his plaudits, Kean stole the show, scoring his brace and getting the fourth Azzurri goal with a left-footed volley after a splendid pass by Bernardeschi.

There was only one team on the pitch. Determined to seek more goals and more applause from the eleven thousand spectators present in Reggio Emilia, Italy spared no effort. The first half ended with two chances, one by Raspadori and the other by Bernardeschi, which missed the target.

Two changes were made at the start of the second half: Sirigu went in goal in place of Donnarumma and Calabria came on to replace Biraghi. After eight minutes, referee Pawson ruled out a goal by Raspadori following an offside call from his assistant. But Italy were unleashed and a minute later they made it 5-0 with a cross from Di Lorenzo that turned into an excellent lobbed finish over Šetkus.

The party had begun in the stands, with applause and chants that only increase when the debutant Scamacca, whose hometown is in Reggio Emilia, entered the action in place of Bernardeschi. With him came Castrovilli who replaced Jorginho. In the 63rd minute Kean put in a low cross with his right for Pessina who hit it first time, but his shot went wide.

In the 72nd minute, Kean came off to much applause in the stands, as Berardi came on in his place. Italy came close to the sixth goal in the 84th minute but the post denied Castrovilli's right-footed effort.


Nazionale A Italia-Lituania

8 September 2021