U21: Italy draw in Slovakia

Andrea Belotti earned Italy a creditable 1-1 draw in Slovakia for their European Under-21 Championship play-off.

Andrea Belotti earned Italy a creditable 1-1 draw in Slovakia for their European Under-21 Championship play-off.

The first leg of the play-off for the European Under-21 Championships took place in Zlate Moravce. The decider is on Tuesday at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia, Sassuolo’s” data-scaytid=”6″>Sassuolo’s home stadium. Slovakia were not to be under-estimated, as they topped their group ahead of Holland and lost just once in qualifying. The Azzurrini ended their group with three consecutive victories.

Fiorentina forward Federico Bernardeschi’s effort was smothered after two minutes, while Ivan Schranz flashed his shot across the face of goal. Palermo’s Andrea Belotti was crowded out when trying to tap in from six yards, but Patrik Hrosovsky scuffed his finish. Branislav Ninaj was twice decisive, charging down Bernardeschi and Belotti.

The Azzurrini went extremely close on 37 minutes, as Matteo Bianchetti’s header from a corner was redirected by Cristian Battocchio, skimming the bar from point-blank range. Domenico Belardi of Sassuolo drilled wide, then fired straight at the goalkeeper after a smart dummy had committed two defenders.

After the restart a long ball dropped over Belotti’s shoulder, but once again Dobrivoj Rusov performed a crucial save. Battocchio sprung the offside trap and his lob was cleared off the line, but the subsequent corner was flicked on for Belotti to score from six yards, giving Italy a precious away goal.

Slovakia had penalty appeals for a Federico Viviani handling offence, but the referee did not consider it to be voluntary. Goalkeeper Rusov fumbled a Viviani snapshot and just about stopped Daniele Rugani tapping in the rebound.

Slovakia equalised when Adam Zrelak went on the counter, held off Davide Zappacosta and placed a precise angled drive across Francesco Bardi.

Bardi was well behind a Richard Lasik strike and Ninaj also threatened as Italy visibly ran out of steam towards the end. In stoppages, Mazan’s fierce volley skimmed the crossbar.

Slovakia 1-1 Italy

Scorers: Belotti 54 (I), Zrelak 69 (S)

Slovakia U21: Rusov; Pauschek, Ninaj, Teixeira, Mazan; Lasik, Paur; Schranz (Malek 66), Hrosovsky, Mihalik (Lobotka 56); Zrelak

Italy U21: Bardi; Zappacosta, Rugani, Bianchetti, Biraghi; Baselli (Crisetig 71), Viviani, Battocchio; Berardi, Belotti (Longo 89), Bernardeschi (Molina 61)

Ref: Dias (POR)

Picture credit: vivoazzurro.it

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