Belgium 0 v 2 Italy – Euro 2016 Group E

BEL 0:2 ITA – a thrilling encounter, with the air and intensity of a knockout game, this was the game of the tournament so far. Gli Azzurri legend Gianluigi Buffon had to be aware early on to produce a fine stop from Belgium’s AS Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan. After that chance it was all Italy in the first half, Antonio Conte‘s well-drilled unit were superb in thwarting any attacking play from the much-fancied De Rode Duivels quartet of Eden HazardKevin De BryuneRomelu Lukaku, and Marouane Fellaini. At the other end, Italy took the lead in brilliant fashion – a sumptuous direct through ball from the halfway line from Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci picked out the run of Bologna Fc 1909 midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini (on-loan from Sunderland AFC of all places!), who cooly slotted past the onrushing Thibaut Courtois. It was no more than Italy deserved, and how Graziano Pellè, unmarked in the six yard box, failed to double the advantage with a free-header is beyond me. Belgium couldn’t deal with the superb wing-play of S.S. Lazio‘s Antonio Candreva, and the link-up play between the busy F.C. Internazionale Milanoforward Éder and Southampton FC‘s Graziano Pellè caused havoc for the Belgian back four. Tottenham Hotspur‘s Toby Alderweireld endured a torrid evening, Pellè winning that battle all night. Pellè forced an impressive one-handed save from Courtois early in the 2nd half as Italy continued their tactical grip on the game. A rare Belgian counter-attack sent Lukaku though on goal but his finish was poor. Liverpool FC‘s Divock Origi was brought on for the ineffectual Lukaku, but he also missed a glorious chance with a tame header from 5 yards out as the Belgians mounted pressure late on. Torino Football Club striker  Ciro Immobile‘s swerving shot was acrobatically turned away by Courtois as the game really opened up. It was breathtaking to watch. A few niggly challenges, a flutter of yellow cards, and a whole lot of passion spurred a stubborn Italy on. An incisive breakaway in the final seconds sent Giaccherini away down the left, he picked out the fantastic Candreva who calmly squared for Pellè to blast home a well-deserved 2nd goal – the Italian Job was complete! An entertaining night in Lyon. Conte will be thrilled, an underachieving Belgium need to pick themselves off the floor. 

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