Goals from Stefano Sensi and Ciro Immobile earned Italy a 2-0 victory over Lithuania on Wednesday as Roberto Mancini’s side made it three wins from three games in their 2022 World Cup qualification Group C.
Mancini made 10 changes to the side who beat Bulgaria 2-0 on Sunday and it showed as the visitors struggled to break down Lithuania on their artificial pitch in the opening period.
After the break however, Italy stepped up a gear, with half-time substitute Sensi firing the opener two minutes into the second half, before Immobile converted a stoppage-time penalty to make sure of the three points.
Another comfortable victory sees Italy remain top of their group on nine points after a sixth win in a row, with the Azzurri not conceding a single goal in that run.
In Wednesday’s other Group C match, Northern Ireland were held to a 0-0 draw by Bulgaria in Belfast.
Italy are now unbeaten in 25 matches under Mancini, the joint-second longest run without losing, level with Marcelo Lippi, among Italian coaches.
“The pitch was difficult and it wasn’t even wet,” Mancini told Rai Sport. “We still had many chances to score.
“The glass is half full. [Group rivals] Switzerland only won 1-0 at home against Lithuania three days ago. These matches are always tough, you cannot be brilliant all the time, but the important thing was to win.”
Against inferior opponents, the result never really looked in doubt, despite Italy’s inability to create any openings of note early on.
Inter Milan’s Sensi came off the bench and arrowed a strike into the net less than two minutes after his introduction.
There was just the one worrying moment for Italy, with Tautvydas Eliosius presented with a glorious chance to snatch an unlikely leveller, but Gianluigi Donnarumma made a fine save.
Lazio striker Immobile missed a hat-trick of glaring chances to score, but made no mistake from the spot after Federico Chiesa had been fouled.
Off the pitch, four Italy team staff members tested positive for COVID-19, said the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), who issued a statement immediately after the win over Lithuania in Vilnius.
It said one member of staff had felt unwell after the win in Bulgaria on Saturday and he returned home, with another three members of Mancini’s staff testing positive on Wednesday.
Those individuals have been isolated from the rest of the group in Lithuania.