Italy overcome slow start to thrash minnows Liechtenstein
Italy 5 - 0 Liechtenstein

Italy overcome slow start to thrash minnows Liechtenstein

Italy were less than totally convincing throughout their 5-0 victory over minnows Liechtenstein in Udine but the three points keep them on a positive path as they strive to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.

Lorenzo Insigne's stunning opener was the only goal of a disappointing first half and only a raft of replacements helped Italy assert their natural dominance after the break, with Andrea Belotti, Eder, Federico Bernardeschi and Manolo Gabbiadini all getting the better of under-siege goalkeeper Peter Jehle.

Sixteen points are not enough to top Group G as Spain, who only just squeezed past Macedonia on Sunday night, boast the same tally but have scored over 20 times, keeping Italy in the playoff position.

National team boss Giampiero Ventura, who oversaw an 8-0 victory over San Marino earlier in the international break, set his team up to score a similar number of goals against lowly Liechtenstein.

Italy may yet beat Spain to first place in the pool by collecting more points than the 2010 World Cup winners, but improving goal difference will also be key.

The Azzurri were eight goals short of Spain in that department heading into their sixth game of the qualifying campaign, and Spain were always likely to improve their advantage in Macedonia and indeed they did so, winning 2-1.

With that in mind Italy in a near 4-2-4 formation set about Liechtenstein with serious intent, and Insigne fizzed a shot just wide after only four minutes.

His strike partner Ciro Immobile, fresh from a 26-goal season with Lazio, forced Jehle to make an early save with a shot from inside the box before returning to blast the ball over the bar.

Insigne twice warmed Jehle's gloves with almost identical efforts before Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, earning his 92nd cap, headed Antonio Candreva's corner against travelling defender Robin Gubser on the goal-line.

The screw was being turned and Insigne gave it a hefty twist in the 35th minute. Picking up the ball from Leonardo Spinazzola on the left, the Napoli hitman controlled and swivelled his body before picking out the underside of the bar in the far corner.

Immobile might have made it 2-0 before half-time but Jehle pulled off a desperate parry to ensure Liechtenstein recorded a more than creditable first-half display.

Torino striker Belotti, unusually subdued across the first 45 minutes, scored his fifth Italy goal shortly after the restart. Insigne was involved, knocking the ball across the penalty area for Belotti -- a reported transfer target for Manchester United and AC Milan -- to steer home.

On for Candreva, Fiorentina's Bernardeschi gave Jehle more food for thought with a well-aimed sighter and Insigne resumed his torment of the FC Vaduz stopper with a left-footed drive against his palms.

Another substitute, Eder, got Italy's third, the Brazilian-born Inter Milan forward hooking Belotti's assist into the back of the net in the 74th minute.

By now Liechtenstein's resolve was shot and Bernardeschi was able to notch his maiden Italy goal with relative ease as time ticked away at the Dacia Arena. Then, in stoppage time, Southampton star Gabbiadini grabbed a goal from the bench by converting Spinazzola's clever pass.

Betting on WORLD CUP 2018 QUALIFIERS? Bet365 are offering a 100% deposit bonus, up to £200 - find out more

Related news

Italy edges Israel to keep pressure on Spain

Italy edges Israel to keep pressure on Spain

Italy kept the pressure on Spain in the race for automatic World Cup qualification as Ciro Immobile scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Israel.

Alvaro Morata, Iago Aspas lead Spain to rout of Liechtenstein

Alvaro Morata, Iago Aspas lead Spain to rout of Liechtenstein

Alvaro Morata and substitute Iago Aspas each scored twice as Spain moved closer to the World Cup finals with an 8-0 win over Group G minnows Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Germany put six past Norway to remain perfect in qualifying

Germany put six past Norway to remain perfect in qualifying

Germany coasted to a 6-0 victory over Norway with a four-goal first-half blitz to extend their 100 percent record to eight matches -- but it still was not enough to guarantee them World Cup qualification.

Marcus Rashford inspires England to victory over Slovakia

Marcus Rashford inspires England to victory over Slovakia

Marcus Rashford turned from zero to hero for England as he recovered from an early mistake to score and assist as the Three Lions beat Slovakia 2-1 to move a step closer to qualifying for the World Cup.

France held to shock goalless draw against tiny Luxembourg

France held to shock goalless draw against tiny Luxembourg

France's World Cup qualification hopes suffered a setback as they were held to a shock goalless draw at home to minnows Luxembourg.

Isco gives Spain huge win over Italy in crucial World Cup qualifier

Isco gives Spain huge win over Italy in crucial World Cup qualifier

Isco scored twice as Spain beat Italy 3-0 at the Bernabeu to move clear at the top of World Cup qualifying Group G.

Mats Hummels' late header keeps Germany perfect in qualifying

Mats Hummels' late header keeps Germany perfect in qualifying

Mats Hummels' late header secured Germany a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Prague to guarantee the world champions at least a playoff place from World Cup qualifying Group C.

Harry Kane on target as England cruise to win over Malta

Harry Kane on target as England cruise to win over Malta

England are on the brink of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup after a 4-0 win in Malta on Friday night.

Uruguay and Argentina play to goalless draw in Montevideo

Uruguay and Argentina play to goalless draw in Montevideo

Argentina were unable wrest a top-four berth away from Uruguay in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying section after being held to a goalless draw in Montevideo.

RELATED NEWS

Italy edges Israel to keep pressure on Spain
Italy 1 - 0 Israel

Italy edges Israel to keep pressure on Spain

Italy kept the pressure on Spain in the race for automatic World Cup qualification as Ciro Immobile scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Israel.

Alvaro Morata, Iago Aspas lead Spain to rout of Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein 0 - 8 Spain

Alvaro Morata, Iago Aspas lead Spain to rout of Liechtenstein

Alvaro Morata and substitute Iago Aspas each scored twice as Spain moved closer to the World Cup finals with an 8-0 win over Group G minnows Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Germany put six past Norway to remain perfect in qualifying
Germany 6 - 0 Norway

Germany put six past Norway to remain perfect in qualifying

Germany coasted to a 6-0 victory over Norway with a four-goal first-half blitz to extend their 100 percent record to eight matches -- but it still was not enough to guarantee them World Cup qualification.

Marcus Rashford inspires England to victory over Slovakia
England 2 - 1 Slovakia

Marcus Rashford inspires England to victory over Slovakia

Marcus Rashford turned from zero to hero for England as he recovered from an early mistake to score and assist as the Three Lions beat Slovakia 2-1 to move a step closer to qualifying for the World Cup.

France held to shock goalless draw against tiny Luxembourg
France 0 - 0 Luxembourg

France held to shock goalless draw against tiny Luxembourg

France's World Cup qualification hopes suffered a setback as they were held to a shock goalless draw at home to minnows Luxembourg.

Isco gives Spain huge win over Italy in crucial World Cup qualifier
Spain 3 - 0 Italy

Isco gives Spain huge win over Italy in crucial World Cup qualifier

Isco scored twice as Spain beat Italy 3-0 at the Bernabeu to move clear at the top of World Cup qualifying Group G.

Mats Hummels' late header keeps Germany perfect in qualifying
Czech Republic 1 - 2 Germany

Mats Hummels' late header keeps Germany perfect in qualifying

Mats Hummels' late header secured Germany a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Prague to guarantee the world champions at least a playoff place from World Cup qualifying Group C.

Harry Kane on target as England cruise to win over Malta
Malta 0 - 4 England

Harry Kane on target as England cruise to win over Malta

England are on the brink of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup after a 4-0 win in Malta on Friday night.

Uruguay and Argentina play to goalless draw in Montevideo
Uruguay 0 - 0 Argentina

Uruguay and Argentina play to goalless draw in Montevideo

Argentina were unable wrest a top-four berth away from Uruguay in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying section after being held to a goalless draw in Montevideo.