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2018 World Cup Qualifying - UEFA, Group Stage
  • Lorenzo Insigne (35')
  • Andrea Belotti (52')
  • Éder (74')
  • Federico Bernardeschi (82')
  • Manolo Gabbiadini (90'+1')

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.