Italy took another step towards European Under-21 Championship qualification by beating Northern Ireland 3-0.
Gigi Di Biagio’s Azzurrini swept their opponents aside this evening at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia.
Federico Viviani opened the scoring with a splendid free kick into the top corner, but Andrea Belotti wasted the opportunity to double their advantage.
Watford midfielder Christian Battocchio also saw a goal incorrectly ruled offside, while Gray threatened with a header that skimmed the upright.
After the break Francesco Fedato fired straight at the goalkeeper, who also parried efforts from Viviani and Luca Antei’s overhead kick.
It took until the final minutes for the Azzurrini to really make their domination count.
Antonio Rozzi, who grew up in the Lazio youth academy and is on loan at Real Madrid, tapped in Belotti’s counter-attack just 60 seconds after coming off the bench.
Moments later Belotti got his own name on the scoresheet from another rapid turnaround.
Italy are now second in Group 9 with nine points from four games, while Belgium are top on 12 points from five.
Italy 3-0 Northern Ireland
Scorers: Viviani 26 (I), Rozzi 86 (I), Belotti 88 (I)
Italy U21: Bardi; Zappacosta, Bianchetti, Antei, Biraghi; Viviani, Baselli; Politano (Fedato 54), Fossati (Molina 64), Battocchio (Rozzi 85); Belotti
Northern Ireland U21: Brennan; Donnelli, Thompson, McCullogh, Sendles-White, McKeown; Winchester, Morgan (Tempest 67) (Brobbell 72), Carson; Gray (Lavery 69), Millar
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.