Italy One Step Closer To Euro 2020 After Win In Armenia

With a bit more struggling than expected, Italy disposed of Armenia to grab their fifth win out of five Euro 2020 Qualification games. Tonight’s 1-3 victory in Yerevan was propitiated by a sumptuous performance by Andrea Belotti, who equalized for the Azzurri and eventually put his stamp on the third goal, after the hosts had surprisingly taken an early lead. Lorenzo Pellegrini scored the second for Roberto Mancini’s band.

Italy’s comeback was facilitated by Armenia playing with one man less for more than one half, consequence of the fiscal expulsion of their forward Aleksander Karapetyan. Coach Mancini however said he is happy about the performance in his post-match remarks. He had predicted a difficult game, if only because the Armenian footballers are already in the middle of their season, and so it was.

Mancini lined up Italy with his usual 4-3-3 module, with a few changes versus his winning home game against Bosnia in June. Gianluigi Donnarumma regained his spot between the sticks, while his teammate Alessio Romagnoli replaced poor Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus’ injured captain will be out of play for at least six months…), and Alessandro Florenzi was deployed on the right back side.

No change in midfield, where Nicolo’ Barella retained his place together with Marco Verratti and Jorginho, but offered a quite unremarkable performance. Lorenzo Insigne’s injury offered Federico Chiesa a spot in Mancini’s offensive tridente, together with Federico Bernardeschi and central forward Andrea Belotti (whom Il Mancio preferred to Ciro Immobile).

The Azzurri, whose league season has just started, were understandably out of shape, and the difference in conditioning appeared evident after just 12 minutes, when a counterattack orchestrated by Tigran Barseghyan, and finalized by Aleksander Karapetyan put the home side in the driving seat.

Italy took 15 minutes to level things up, with Il Gallo Belotti converting a pass by Chelsea’s left-back Emerson Palmieri. Torino’s striker showed he wanted to make the best out of the chance given to him by Mancini, and risked scoring twice more in the following minutes. Rush and ardor didn’t help him, but with tonight’s performance, Belotti really proved he can be the point of reference in the Azzurri’s attacking line.

An airborne battle in Armenia’s box, with Azzurri Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Belotti chasing the ball under Leonardo Bonucci’s eye

Referee Daniel Siebert gave the Italians a little help before half time as he waved the second yellow at Karapetyan – the best among the Armenians, together with Roma’s newcomer Henrikh Mkhitaryan – after he had already received one during a quarrel with Marco Verratti. Paris Saint Germain’s playmaker also scored a yellow in the occasion, which will force him to miss the next qualifiers game with Finland: A good chance for Inter’s Stefano Sensi to shine with the Azzurri jersey.

Lorenzo Pellegrini replaced a disappointing Federico Chiesa after 60 minutes, and brought the Azzurri ahead with a timely header on a cross by Leonardo Bonucci when there were only 13 minutes left. Shortly after, Andrea Belotti made it three for the visitors with a sharp shot that hit the post and bounced on Armenia’s goalkeeper to end in the net.

Il Gallo even made a third one, but referee Siebert disallowed the goal on grounds of an offside position which TV replay showed to be inexistent. But that’s okay. Making full score was the minimum expected result, and considering how the night in Yerevan had started, Roberto Mancini has enough to be happy about.

A further positive result this Sunday in Tampere against Finland would really put the Azzurri on the verge of qualification to Euro 2020 – but with the Nordics trailing along Italy just three points behind in Group J, there will be no room for distractions.


September 5, 2019 – European Championship 2020 Qualifiers Group J

SCORERS: 11′ Karapetyan (A), 28′ Belotti (I), 77′ Pellegrini (I), 80′ Airapetyan (A, o.g.)

ARMENIA (4-2-3-1): Airapetyan; Hambardzumyan, Haroyan, Calisir, Hovhannisyan; Mkrtchyan, Grigoryan (57′ Hovespyan); Barseghyan (57′ Adamyan), Mkhitaryan, Ghazaryan (82′ Babayan); Karapetyan (Aivazov, Beglaryan, Ishkhanyan, Voskanyan, Hovahannisyan, Vardanyan, Yedigaryan, Avetisyan, Miranyan) Coach: Gyowlbowdaġyanc
ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Emerson; Barella (69′ Sensi), Jorginho, Verratti; Bernardeschi (83′ Lasagna), Belotti, Chiesa (61′ Lo. Pellegrini) (Sirigu, Gollini, A. Mancini, Acerbi, Lu. Pellegrini, Izzo, Tonali, Immobile, El Shaarawy) Coach: R. Mancini

REFEREE: Siebert (Germany)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Karapetyan, Ghazaryan, Barseghyan (A), Verratti, Barella (I); Red Card: Karapetyan (A); Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 4′