European champions Italy were held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier, but the Azzurri equalled Spain and Brazil’s unbeaten run record.
Roberto Mancini picked almost the same line-up as the UEFA Euro 2020 Final, with Alessandro Florenzi and Francesco Acerbi among the new faces. Captain Giorgio Chiellini was rested, so he will be able to start against Switzerland on Sunday.
Italy had a great start. Lorenzo Insigne fired wide from a tight angle, but the Azzurri put their noses ahead after just 16 minutes with Federico Chiesa, who cut down the right flank, skipped past a couple of defenders and fired home from the edge of the box after a one-two pass with Ciro Immobile.
The Azzurri seemed in control of the game, Ciro Immobile had a good chance from inside the box, but Bulgarian goalkeeper Georgiev made the first of many saves with Chiesa, who arrived too early to steer the ball into the net. With just five minutes before the break, Bulgaria levelled the scores with their first shot on target.
Kiril Despodov found it very easy to dribble past Florenzi on the left flank, put the ball in and find Atanas Iliev, who cut in front of Acerbi to score an unexpected equaliser. Italy dominated the second half, creating several opportunities to score. Immobile rounded Georgiev, but all he could get was a corner kick as he carried the ball wide and could only try to go for the goal from a tight angle.
Nicolò Barella collected another corner kick with a deflected shot from the edge of the box. Georgiev produced the save of the night on Federico Chiesa, who tried to score with a chip shot, but the Bulgarian goalkeeper showed cat-like reflexes. He denied Immobile once again before Giacomo Raspadori replaced the Lazio striker.
Italy pushed forward to score the winner, but Bulgaria didn’t let the Azzurri find a way through. The Azzurri are now unbeaten in 35 games and have equalled Spain and Brazil’s record. Switzerland are coming up next with the Azzurri travelling to Basel on Sunday.