Italy v Northern Ireland Live Commentary & Result, 25/03/2021, WC Qualification Europe | OkeGoal

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Italy are back in Group C action when they travel to Bulgaria on Sunday. The same day, Northern Ireland host USA in a friendly at Windsor Park.

First-half goals from Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile were enough to give Italy a winning start to their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. But in fairness to Northern Ireland, they never lay down and can take plenty of positives from their performance in Parma today.

90′ + 4′ FULL-TIME: ITALY 2-0 NORTHERN IRELAND

90′ + 3′ Thompson stops Verratti from embarking on a dangerous counter and is shown a yellow card.

90′ + 1′ We are into the first of three additional minutes at the end of this game.

89′ At the other end, Immobile demonstrates good movement to stay onside and latch onto a neat through ball. The Lazio striker looks to round Peacock-Farrell, but can only find the side-netting from a tight angle.

88′ WHAT A CHANCE! Yet again, Italy sloppy in possession around their own penalty area. Northern Ireland are onto the ball in a flash and Davis squares it across the area for the onrushing McNair, who cannot keep his first-time shot underneath the crossbar.

86′ We are entering the latter stages of this contest and Italy are going through the motions as the clock ticks down.

84′ Vincenzo Grifo also enters the fray, with Insigne given a well-earned rest.

84′ Matteo Pessina replaces Locatelli in one of two Italian changes.

83′ Good try! Davis finds himself in the box and the ball drops kindly for him on the volley. However, he drills his well-struck effort straight at Donnarumma.

82′ On a momentous day for the skipper, Davis continues to demonstrate his quality in possession as he neatly sprays the ball around to his team-mates. Should he appear in Sunday’s friendly against USA, he will become the most-capped British international player outright.

80′ Lafferty earns his 80th cap for the Irish today. That moves him joint-10th on his nation’s all-time list alongside Gareth McAuley.

78′ Kyle Lafferty also enters the action in place of Magennis.

78′ Northern Ireland make a double-change. The first sees Jordan Thompson replacing McCann.

77′ It is just under 10 years since these two nations met. Italy prevailed 3-0 in October 2011 with Antonio Cassano scoring twice. Chiellini and Davis are the only two survivors from that contest.

75′ Federico Chiesa is also introduced for the hosts with Berardi making way.

75′ A double-change for the Italians. The first sees Leonardo Spinazzola replace Emerson.

72′ Baraclough’s men can certainly take plenty of positives from their performance here. They have just been lacking that clinical edge in the final third.

70′ More pressure from the Irish at the other end. The visitors force their fifth corner of the game – from which Donnarumma has to make a vital intervention with Magennis lurking in the six-yard box.

68′ Good effort! Picking the ball up on the left flank, Insigne cuts inside onto his favoured right foot before unleashing a curling shot that isn’t too far wide of the target.

66′ Can Lavery make an impact for the visitors? The Linfield striker has 19 goals to his name this season, including eight in his last five appearances.

64′ The Irish also turn to the bench with Shayne Lavery coming on for Whyte.

64′ A change for Italy with Nicolo Barella replacing Pellegrini.

63′ Yet again, Northern Ireland fail to make the most of a set-piece with Italy easily dealing with the delivery once more.

62′ A good chance for the visitors, who are awarded a free-kick in a good position after Pellegrini is penalised. Can they capitalise on this opportunity?

60′ Italy remain two goals to the good as we hit the hour mark at Stadio Ennio Tardini. They must be careful, though, as Northern Ireland are refusing to lie down.

58′ The hosts took their feet off the pedal for a moment there and were almost punished. That will certainly encourage the Irish as they seek a route back into the contest.

56′ WHAT ARE ITALY DOING?! The Italians become uncharacteristically lackadaisical in possession around their own penalty area, and it takes good reflexes from Donnarumma to deny Whyte. The AC Milan goalkeeper is called into action again soon after as he pushes Smith’s volley away.

53′ Good pressure from the Irish sees them force a corner. However, the Italians deal with the delivery and but for the visitors recovering in numbers, they could have been embarking on yet another dangerous counter.

51′ After receiving the required attention, Locatelli returns to the field of play.

50′ CHANCE! Immobile is unmarked as he meets a deep free-kick to the far post, but is unable to keep his header on target.

49′ A break in play after Locatelli stays down following a collision with Dallas. The Sassuolo man appears a little winded as the medical team tend to him.

47′ Saville receives the first yellow card of the game after catching Florenzi with a trailing arm.

47′ Good strike! A bright start from the Irish sees the ball drop kindly for Whyte to hit on the volley. He strikes it cleanly, but it just goes the wrong side of the post.

46′ Italy get the ball rolling again in the second half.

46′ The visitors make a change at the break with George Saville replacing Corry Evans.

Despite the deficit, Northern Ireland have looked good in possession and refused to lie down in the contest. It will just be a case of ensuring they take any opportunity that falls their way upon the resumption of this contest.

Goals from Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile have put Italy firmly in control of proceedings against Northern Ireland. The Italians have never lost a World Cup qualifier on home soil and, barring a dramatic turnaround, it is highly likely they will continue that run here.

45′ HALF-TIME: ITALY 2-0 NORTHERN IRELAND

42′ The Irish look to respond and enjoy a neat phase of possession, but they are just unable to break down the stubborn Italians.

40′ How quickly things can change in a football match. From the chance of an equaliser at one end, the Irish find themselves two goals behind in a matter of seconds. They face an uphill battle from here.

38′ Insigne led the Italian charge before feeding Immobile, who doubled the hosts’ lead.

38′ IMMOBILE!!! 2-0 ITALY! A ruthless counter by the Italians! After dealing with a Northern Ireland attack at one end, the Azzurri double their lead within seconds thanks to a quickfire break with Insigne leading the charge. He feeds Immobile, who advances into the area before firing past Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle.

36′ A league title winner as a manager in Italy and England, Mancini has also enjoyed an impressive spell with the national side so far. He has overseen 15 victories from 24 games so far, with his side netting 55 times during that span.

34′ Mancini is looking to guide Italy to the World Cup finals – a tournament in which he never actually played. He was an unused squad member in 1990, while a dispute with then coach Arrigo Sacchi culminted in him missing out four years later.

32′ This is Italy’s eighth international at Stadio Ennio Tardini. They have won six of their previous seven here, including a 6-0 rout of Liechtenstein almost two years ago to the day.

30′ The hosts very much in the ascendancy as we hit the half-hour mark in Parma. Northern Ireland are not out of this yet by any means, but must stick in there to have any chance.

28′ A neat move by the Italians almost gets Berardi in behind again. However, the offside flag stops the goalscorer in his tracks.

26′ Just to highlight their recent resurgence, Italy are unbeaten in their last 22 matches, winning 17 of those. There is a long way to go yet, but it already looks like they will add an 18th victory here.

24′ Before that, 2021 is a big year for the Italians. In June, they will host Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the European Championship group stage. Then in October, they face Spain in the Nations League semi-finals, so plenty of silverware up for grabs.

22′ Four-time World champions, only Brazil have been more successful than Italy at football’s biggest international event. Certainly a team on the rise, the Azzurri will fancy their chances of capturing that fifth title in Qatar next year.

20′ Just wide! Berardi involved again as he cuts inside onto his left foot before floating an inviting ball to the far post. Emerson loses Smith, but sees his header drift inches wide of the target.

18′ You must go back to 1958 for the last time Northern Ireland scored against Italy. Therefore, they must end a 63-year drought to have any chance of taking something from this game.

16′ Italy’s man in form, Berardi has now scored in each of the Azzurri’s last three internationals, and he was ruthless with his conversion of that opportunity.

14′ Florenzi demonstrated tremendous vision to pick out the run of Berardi, who had far too much time and space to race through on goal.

14′ BERARDI!!! 1-0 ITALY! The hosts get in behind far too easily as Berardi latches onto Florenzi’s long ball down the line. The forward races towards goal before sweeping the ball past Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle.

13′ Italy continue to apply the pressure and Immobile is involved again by linking the play in the box. But the offside flag comes to the visitors’ rescue on this occasion.

11′ CHANCE! Danger for Northern Ireland as Immobile latches onto a long ball over the top of the defence. However, he does not strike the ball cleanly and Peacock-Farrell gratefully gathers.

9′ It has been a promising start by the Irish, who are awarded a free-kick in a good position. Smith floats the ball into the box, but Italy head clear.

7′ Of course, the Italians’ last World Cup campaign ended in disaster as their play-off defeat by Sweden meant they failed to qualify for the 2018 finals. The Azzurri will be desperate to avoid a repeat of that four years on.

5′ Once again, Italy deal with the set-piece without too many difficulties. Remember, the Azzurri have never lost a World Cup qualifier on home soil. That is the task at hand for Northern Ireland today.

4′ A neat phase of play from the Irish sees Whyte and McCann exchange passes in the Italian box, before the former’s deflected cross goes behind for a corner.

2′ The visitors look to apply early pressure with Smith launching a long throw into the box. However, Italy easily deal with it and go on the counter, before Evans tidies things up at the back.

1′ The referee blows his whistle and Northern Ireland get things underway!

The teams are coming out onto the pitch and kick-off is moments away.

Italy are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Northern Ireland; winning four, while they have never lost in this fixture on home soil.

The big news for Northern Ireland sees Steven Davis make his 125th international appearance; making him the joint-most capped British player of all time alongside England’s Peter Shilton. Jonny Evans earns his 90th cap in the heart of defence, but Jamal Lewis misses out with a groin injury. Other notable injury absentees from Ian Baraclough’s squad include Conor Washington and Jordan Jones, while Liam Boyce will join up later in the camp as he awaits the imminent birth of his second child.

Roberto Mancini names a strong side in his 25th match in charge of Italy. Leonardo Bonucci earns his 100th cap as he starts alongside skipper Giorgio Chiellini, who plays his 106th international. Further up the field, Ciro Immobile leads the line and will receive support from Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi, who has netted in each of the Azzurri’s last two games.

SUBS: Liam Hughes, George Saville, Jordan Thompson, Danny Ballard, Shayne Lavery, Conor McLaughlin, Kyle Lafferty, Matthew Kennedy, Ciaron Brown, Niall McGinn, Shane Ferguson, Conor Hazard.

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-4-2): Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Michael Smith, Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Stuart Dallas; Paddy McNair, Corry Evans, Ali McCann, Steven Davis; Gavin Whyte, Josh Magennis.

SUBS: Salvatore Sirigu, Matteo Pessina, Federico Bernardeschi, Francesco Acerbi, Nicolo Barrella, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Leonardo Spinazzola, Andrea Belotti, Vincenzo Grifo, Gianluca Mancini, Federico Chiesa, Alessio Cragno.

ITALY (4-3-3): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Emerson; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Manuel Locatelli, Marco Verratti; Domenico Berardi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne.

Stadio Ennio Tardini – home to Serie A side Parma – is the venue for the Group C clash, as both nations launch their quest for a place at the finals in Qatar next year.

Hello everyone and welcome to live text coverage of the World Cup qualifier between Italy and Northern Ireland.