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EURO2016: Italy outshine Belgium

Group E's second game of Euro2016 has seen Italy dispatch Belgium 2-0 in Lyon.

In an at times breathtaking encounter, Belgium's attack was lacking a cutting edge as the Italian defence held firm and countered with real menace of their own.

Emanuele Giaccherini scored the game's first goal with Italy's first shot on target in the 32nd minute before Graziano Pelle put the icing on the Italian cake in injury-time when volleying home the Azzurri's second.

Before kick-off, this game was billed as one of Europe's rising stars against the forgotten ones as a quality Belgium outfit looked to prove their world number two ranking against the fading shine of the 2006 World Cup winners.

Both teams started the match with real intent and quality on the ball, as they each entered their attacking thirds within minutes of kick-off.

Belgium issued the first shot on target after 10 minutes with some superb link-up play seeing Radja Nainggolan volley low and hard towards goal with Gianluigi Buffon doing enough to parry it away.

It was the Belgians with a lot of the ball in the first half too as they patiently plugged away at the miserly Italian backline. The Azzurri were, however, a real threat on the counter and their first effort on target would reap the ultimate reward in the form of the opening goal.

Giaccherini was found brilliantly inside the box by defender Leonardo Bonucci from the middle of the park on 32 minutes. The midfielder took a great first touch to set himself to finish calmly past Thibaut Courtois.

The goal seemed to rattle Belgium who were being bounced off the ball with a bit more frequency but continued to push forward. Kevin De Bruyne was looking dangerous for Belgium as he had two shots towards goal blocked in the tail end of the first half.

Italy were doing enough at the back and remaining a real threat on the counter to maintain their lead at half-time.

As the second half resumed, Belgium's frailty at the back was again exposed with the Azzurri going right through the Belgian back four in the opening minute and were unlucky not to get a shot away.

Belgium were unlucky not grab their opener on 53 minutes after a blistering counter saw Romelu Lukaku chipping just wide of the top right corner of goal. Italy almost making the Belgians pay for their lack of accuracy as Courtois was forced into a fine save immediately up the other end.

Italy were able to calm the game down somewhat after this with Giorgio Chiellini shown a yellow card on 65 minutes after he purposely took Eden Hazard down as Belgium tried to break.

On 73 minutes, Lukaku was replaced by Divock Origi as Belgium looked for a bit more venom up front. But Italy continued to defend resolutely with their experience at the back enough to keep Belgium at bay. Two yellow cards for the Azzurri in 75th and 77th minute showing the Italians willingness to do whatever it took to keep Belgium goal-less.

Origi was a welcomed threat in attack for Belgium but in the 82nd minute he headed over the crossbar from a good position following a De Bruyne cross and then followed it up moments later with a failed bicycle kick.

Ciro Immobile countered well for Italy and forced another fine save from Courtois in the 84th minute as Italy edged closer to victory.

In the 89th minute the ball fell awkwardly for Marouane Fellani inside the Italy box with the midfielder unable to make meaningful contact, which pretty much summed up Belgium's night in front of goal.

It was a much finer night for Italy who would finish the game with a second goal to secure a 2-0 win. Pelle volleying home from close range to seal a memorable victory for the Azzurri.

Italy now sit top of Group E and will play Sweden on Friday with Belgium having to pick themselves up against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday.


EURO2016 - Group E

Belgium: 0
Italy: 2 (Emanuele Giaccherini 32', Graziano Pelle 90+2' )
Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon - 55,408


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