Italy beat Belgium to take a place in the European Championship finals. Emiliano Bigica’s side showed character in a tough fixture without letting up for a moment. Fabrizio Caligara came up with the goal from a free kick at the edge of the area just before time ran down.
The first half was relatively balanced even if Italy had the better chances. Belgium were a solid side and the match was crucial both sides’ chances of qualification. The Azzurrini started well and the lively Moise Kean had a couple of early chances. Pellegri linked up with him in the 14th minute and the Genoa forward went through on goal but his right-foot effort was blocked. The rest of the half passed by tensely but without any more clear chances.
Belgium started strong in the second half but the Azzurrini resisted without too much difficulty. The match became increasingly physical and the Irish referee Harvey had to pull out his yellow card on a few occasions. The ball remained in play after Carnesecchi came out of his goal before Openda fired the ball onto the bar. Bigica made some changes and the usual Kean won a foul after 77 minutes at the edge of the box. Caligara stepped up to score via the underside of the bar and the goal was enough to secure qualification after five minutes of stoppage time. Bellanova was also sent off before the end for an incident with Openda.
The match ended with the players, Bigica and staff celebrating. “It was a great performance, the boys were exceptional,” said Bigica. “We knew that it would be difficult but the boys jumped right in, we won and that was enough to qualify.”
After the Netherlands beat Belarus, Sunday’s match between the two will decide who tops the group.
Italy 1-0 Belgium
Scorers: Caligara 77’
ITALY (4-4-2). Carnesecchi, Bellanova, Bettella (C), Anzolin, Candela, Visconti (Vignato 67’), Rizzo Pinna, Biancu (Caligara 57’), Portanova, Pellegri (Merola 76’), Kean. Coach. Bigica. Bench. Gemello, Corbo, Gilli, Nicolussi Caviglia,.
BELGIUM (4-3-3). Valkenaers, Gillekens, Pletinckx, Guldix (van den Eynden 18’), Ndenbe, Gilis (Leoni 67’), Loua (De Bie 48’), Vekemans, Openda, Ngonge, Bussaid. Coach. Browaeys. Bench. Lenaerts, Wuyts, Zaroury, Boudry,.
Referee. Rob Harvey (IRL); Assistants Darragh Keegan (IRL) and Dyon Fikkert (NED); Fourth Official: Rob Dieperink (NED)
Bookings. Biancu 28’; van den Eynden 32’; Rizzo Pinna 34’; Loua 41’; Gilis; Ngonge 73’; Caligara 78’;
Red Cards. Bellanova 85’ (5’ minutes in stoppage time.)
Results and Fixtures in Group 5
Matchday One (14th March)
Netherlands 2-0 Belgium
Belarus 0-3 Italy
Matchday Two (16th March)
Netherlands 3-2 Belarus
Italy 1-0 Belgium
Matchday Three (19th March)
Netherlands vs. Italy (15:00)
Belarus vs. Belgium (15:00)
Standings. Italy and Netherlands 6 points, Belarus and Belgium 0