Monday, 13 June 2016

Belgium 0-2 Italy: Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle score for Italy

  • Sunderland's  Emanuele Giaccherini scored Italy's first goal as they beat Belgium in Lyon
  • Graziano Pelle made sure of the victory, finishing off a fine counter-attacking move in injury time

  • Antonio Conte wasn’t the only one left nursing a bloody nose here at the Stade de Lyon. 
    But while the incoming Chelsea boss sustained his injury celebrating Emanuele Giaccherini’s opening goal, Marc Wilmots and his Belgium players were left to rue another disappointing night on the big stage.
    The wait for Belgium’s golden generation to glitter goes on. This was a familiar story for a team that continues to fail to be the sum of its parts. There is something missing from Wilmots’s side and it is not just the cohesion that is so important to many great teams, and certainly makes this Italy team so damned hard to beat. 
    Graziano Pelle lashes the ball home in injury time to make sure of the points for Italy

    Graziano Pelle lashes the ball home in injury time to make sure of the points for Italy
    Pelle wheels away in delight after doubling Italy's advantage while ensuring a miserable night for Belgium

    Pelle wheels away in delight after doubling Italy's advantage while ensuring a miserable night for Belgium
    Pelle is congratulated by his team-mates as Italy celebrate making a winning start to the European Championship

    Pelle is congratulated by his team-mates as Italy celebrate making a winning start to the European Championship
    Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates after Pelle's goal sent the Italians into delirium 

    Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates after Pelle's goal sent the Italians into delirium
    Belgium are not short on self-belief but they do lack passion, and that was evident in this Group E match.
    Two years after labouring to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil before making a disappointing exit, this was another night to forget.
    Conte’s side were the better team, taking their fine form in qualifying into Euro 2016, and deserved their win. This is the first time Belgium have qualified for European Championship finals since 1984 — when it was also held on French soil — and their first appearance since 2000 when they co-hosted the tournament, and Conte and Wilmots faced each other as players.
    It ended in disappointment for Wilmots then, and so it was again last night.
    A thunderstorm before kick-off moistened the playing surface at the impressive new 59,000 Stade de Lyon, which is staging six games including the first semi-final, but it could not dampen the spirits of the two sets of supporters inside the ground who were looking forward to one of the most eagerly awaited games of the group stage.
    Belgium, a team currently ranked second in the world and committed to attacking football, against Italy, the beaten finalists four years ago and the defensive misers who qualified as one of only four undefeated teams while scoring just seven goals. Conte deployed his trusted Juventus back-three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in front of veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon intent on maintaining that record, no doubt mindful of a 3-1 defeat to Belgium in a friendly in November.
    Wilmots did not have such a luxury, having already lost four key defenders, including captain Vincent Kompany, before the tournament. However, he was able to call on an all-Premier League front four of Kevin De Bruyne, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.
    Italy’s plan was clear from the start; to frustrate their opponents, primarily by using wing-backs Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva to counteract the wide threat from Hazard and De Bruyne. 
    Italy's Emanuele Giaccherini scores the opening goal past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois

    Italy's Emanuele Giaccherini scores the opening goal past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois
    Courtois can do nothing about the shot after Giaccherini stole a march on the Belgium defence

    Courtois can do nothing about the shot after Giaccherini stole a march on the Belgium defence
    The ball hits the back of the net as the Belgium defence laments the concession of the goal on the half-hour mark

    The ball hits the back of the net as the Belgium defence laments the concession of the goal on the half-hour mark
    Giaccherini is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring Italy's first goal of the tournament in France

    Giaccherini is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring Italy's first goal of the tournament in Franc

    Antonio Conte suffered a nose bleed while celebrating Italy's first goal of the game

    Antonio Conte suffered a nose bleed while celebrating Italy's first goal of the game

    It worked in the sense that Belgium’s best attempts in the first half came down the middle and from distance. First Lukaku and the newly blond Fellaini nodded on for Radja Nainggolan — reportedly a target for Conte when he takes over at Chelsea after this tournament — to force Buffon into a fine save from 25 yards out.
    When Italy struggled to clear their lines shortly afterwards, Fellaini again prodded the ball to Nainggolan who fired wide from a similar distance. It took Italy half an hour to fire their first shot in anger, Southampton striker Graziano Pelle curling an effort wide.
    But it was the prelude to the opening goal as Conte’s side took a surprise lead in the 32nd minute.
    There seemed little danger when Bonucci advanced over halfway with the ball at his feet. However, he saw an opportunity and floated a wonderful ball over the top of the Belgium defence.
    It brushed the head of the despairing Toby Alderweireld and dropped to Giaccherini, the Sunderland striker on loan at Bologna last season, who killed the ball with one touch of his left foot and stroked it past Thibaut Courtois with his right. 

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