Bulgaria 0-2 Italy: Azzurri conquer Sofia

by | Mar 28, 2021 21:35

Andrea Belotti’s penalty and a splendid Manuel Locatelli curler gave Italy the 2-0 victory in Bulgaria to maintain the perfect World Cup qualifying start.

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Andrea Belotti’s penalty and a splendid Manuel Locatelli curler gave Italy the 2-0 victory in Bulgaria to maintain the perfect World Cup qualifying start.

Follow all the action as it happens and give your views on the LIVEBLOG.

This was the second game in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers after the Azzurri beat Northern Ireland 2-0, while Bulgaria lost 3-1 at home to Switzerland. Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo left the squad, so there were six changes to the starting XI, including Stefano Sensi, Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti.

Italy had never won a competitive match on Bulgarian soil and Spezia striker Andrey Galabinov had the first chance, firing at Gianluigi Donnarumma.

There was a decisive and desperate tackle when Chiesa was sent clear, then the Juventus winger couldn’t control a Lorenzo Insigne pass to the back post.

Leonardo Spinazzola pulled back from the by-line, but Insigne’s finish was charged down from 12 yards, as was Belotti’s attempt on a Nicolò Barella cross.

The referee was giving very soft free kicks and that included the penalty just before half-time, when Belotti went down under a nudge from Daniel Dimov as he ran onto the Insigne slide-rule pass. The Torino striker converted it himself into the near bottom corner to give Italy the lead.

Spinazzola regularly left Cicinho in his dust, so the wing-back was substituted at half-time. Bulgaria had penalty appeals of their own waved away when Birsent Karagaren pulled back from the by-line, deflected by Sensi’s sliding block. It wasn’t entirely clear if there was handball, but there is no VAR in these World Cup qualifiers anyway. Karagaren also forced a great save from Donnarumma, but was offside.

Italy too had spot-kick appeals, but Belotti seemed to swing and miss the ball a fraction of a second before the defender caught him.

Belotti thought he’d scored a second on 72 minutes, only for his lob to beat the goalkeeper and bounce off the base of the upright, then he fired the rebound over.

After a series of efforts were charged down, the move continued and substitute Manuel Locatelli curled a fantastic right-foot finish into the far corner to double Italy’s lead. It was the Sassuolo midfielder’s first senior Italy strike.

It should’ve been 3-0 soon after when Leonardo Bonucci’s inspired one-touch pass sent Immobile clear, but he did everything right except the finish, straight at the on-rushing goalkeeper.

Immobile forced another fingertip save after running onto the Locatelli long ball.

Bulgaria 0-2 Italy

Belotti pen 43 (I), Locatelli 83 (I)

Bulgaria: P Iliev; D Dimov, Antov, Bozhikov; Kostadinov (Malinov 62); Cicinho (Karagaren 46), Chochev, Vitanov (Rainov 88), Tsvetanov; Delev (A Iliev 78), Galabinov

Italy: G Donnarumma; Florenzi (Di Lorenzo 68), Bonucci, Acerbi, Spinazzola; Barella, Sensi (Locatelli 68), Verratti (Pessina 88); Chiesa (Bernardeschi 75), Belotti (Immobile 75), Insigne

Ref: Vincic (SVN)

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