Depleted Italy thrive in adversity against Poland
Despite missing 21 players and coach Mancini, Italy cruise past Poland
Italy brushed off the absence of several players and coach Roberto Mancini with an impressive 2-0 victory over a toothless Poland outfit yesterday morning (Singapore time) to close in on a Nations League Finals place.
The Azzurri took top spot in Nations League A, Group 1 from Holland, who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier in the day, by seeing off previous table-toppers Poland in Reggio Emilia.
Italy will seal a place in next October's Finals with victory over the Bosnians in Sarajevo on Thursday morning.
Assistant coach Alberico Evani was again in charge for Italy, with Mancini watching from home after testing positive for Covid-19.
An original 41-man Italy squad for this international break had already been decimated due to injuries, as well as positive and inconclusive Covid-19 tests.
"It's our culture, Italians give their best during difficult moments and become more united," Evani told RAI Sport.
"It's what I asked of these lads before the game and they were extraordinary."
In total, 21 players who may have been in contention to play were unavailable.
"The more days went on, the more players kept leaving the camp, but we said to ourselves that we had to be even more united through these obstacles," striker Andrea Belotti said.
"It was a great performance and we proved that we were superior to Poland in every way."
After a cagey start, Grzegorz Krychowiak bundled Belotti to the ground at a set-piece to concede a penalty.
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho stepped up to send goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way with his trademark hop, despite having missed two spot-kicks for his club this season.
Belotti wasted a good chance to double Italy's advantage, volleying Lorenzo Insigne's dinked free-kick over the crossbar.
Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who has already scored 15 goals this season for club and country, cut a frustrated figure for Poland. He made an impact only when he appeared to elbow Alessandro Bastoni and was perhaps fortunate the VAR (video assistant referee) was not being used.
Poland's task was made harder in the 77th minute when Jacek Goralski was given a second yellow card for bringing down Belotti.
Italy finally scored the second goal they deserved with six minutes remaining after a lovely passing move, with Domenico Berardi firing in from Insigne's pass.
Sampdoria defender Bartosz Bereszynski told Uefa's website: "This was our worst game for quite some time. I cannot even find one positive thing in our game."
His coach Jerzy Brzeczek added: "The first half was very bad...
"Some of our young players did not play at the level we wished." - AFP