Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile were on target as Italy kick-started the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers campaign with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.
Italy were up and running just 14 minutes into the game as Domenico Berardi cut in from the right flank to fire an effort past the Northern Ireland goalkeeper, who then went on to deny Ciro Immobile and Berardi soon after. However, the second goal did come as a result of a swift counter in the 39th minute with Immobile turning a pass from Lorenzo Insigne into the net.
Northern Ireland came back with more purpose after the half-time break while Italy seemed to take the foot off the pedal. This resulted in the visitors having a few chances of scoring with Gianluigi Donnarumma called into action by Gavin Whyte and Michael Smith, while Paddy McNair fired one over the bar from a decent position late on.
At the other end, substitutes Federico Chiesa and Leonardo Spinazzola had chances to increase Italy’s advantage but weren’t able to take their opportunities as the Azzurri held on for a 2-0 win in Parma. And here’s how we rated the performances of Roberto Mancini’s men on the night.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 6/10
Did not have much to do in the first half with his team dominating proceedings. Called into action after the break, dealt with a couple of chances fairly easily. Almost cost his team a goal with a poor pass to a teammate inside the box late on, though.
Alessandro Florenzi: 7/10
A fine pass to set Berardi up for the opening goal. Offered a decent outlet on the right for the most part, playing two key passes in total. Looked solid defensively as well, making three clearances and an interception.
Leonardo Bonucci: 6/10
Untroubled for much of the first half. The visitors posed more of a threat after the break which meant he had a few issues but coped with them to secure a clean sheet.
Giorgio Chiellini: 7/10
Like his defensive partner, Chiellini had a few troubles when Northern Ireland started to press high up after the break but he did not make any glaring error. A dominant force in the air, cutting out crosses with ease, as he won seven aerial duels while also making five clearances, two tackles and an interception. A captain’s display.
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@azzurri) March 25, 2021
Emerson Palmieri: 6/10
May not be a regular for his club Chelsea but got the nod ahead of Leonardo Spinazzola for the Azzurri. Did well, for the most part, securing his flank defensively. However, he was not able to offer much in terms of attacking impetus like Florenzi did on the opposite flank.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 6/10
Getting the nod ahead of Nicolo Barella, the AS Roma midfielder endured a quiet outing in which he was not able to provide much of an attacking thrust or creativity going forward. Misplaced six of his 32 attempted passes and conceded a dangerous free-kick before he became the first player to be subbed off.
Manuel Locatelli: 6/10
Apart from a poor back-pass that led to a chance, the Sassuolo midfielder was a solid presence at the base of the midfield. Kept things ticking along nicely in the centre and kept things under check, allowing Marco Verratti to have more of an influence further up the pitch.
Marco Verratti: 6.5/10
A sloppy moment late in the game almost led to a goal for the visitors. Prior to that, he orchestrated attacks with his distribution, completing 67 of his 72 attempted passes. Played a role in the build-up to Italy’s second goal and generally linked up well with those in front of him.
Domenico Berardi: 8/10
Domenico Berardi has now scored in each of his last three games for Italy.
The Azzurri's go-to goalscorer of late. pic.twitter.com/kysv8zpKTP
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 25, 2021
A bright spark from the right, it was Berardi who opened the scoring for Italy on the night, squeezing home an effort from a slightly tight angle. Could have had a second one not long after but was denied by Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the Northern Ireland goal. Played two key passes, although he did fade a bit in the second half.
Ciro Immobile: 7.5/10
Should have done better with a chance soon after Berardi’s goal but scuffed his effort leading to an easy save for the opposition goalkeeper. But, he did not miss his opportunity at the second time of asking, finding the back of the net to make it 2-0 close to half-time. Linked up well with his attacking partners and played in a game-high four key passes.
Ciro Immobile for Italy vs. Northern Ireland:
◉ 5 shots attempted
◉ 4 chances created
Directly involved in 75% of Italy's shots tonight (9 of 12). pic.twitter.com/1GeqRqdaAi
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 25, 2021
Lorenzo Insigne: 7/10
Posed a threat to the Northern Ireland backline every time he got on the ball. Set up the second goal for Immobile with a good pass and created a couple more chances as well, while he also tested the opposition goalie once in the second period. Lively.
Nicolo Barella: 6/10
Sent on in place of Pellegrini a little after the hour mark. Added a bit more energy and verve to the midfield.
Leonardo Spinazzola: N/A
Came on to replace Emerson for the last 15 minutes.
Federico Chiesa: N/A
On for Berardi for the final 15 minutes.
Matteo Pessina: N/A
Replaced Locatelli with less than ten minutes left.
Vincenzo Grifo: N/A
On for Insigne in the 84th minute.