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2018 World Cup Qualifying - UEFA, Group Stage
  • Andrea Belotti (11', 44')
  • Ciro Immobile (12')
  • Antonio Candreva (32')

Italy beat Liechtenstein to keep pace with group leaders Spain

Andrea Belotti scored twice as Italy kept the pressure on Group G leaders Spain with a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

The Azzurri, behind the Spaniards on goal difference, were ruthless at the Rheinpark Stadion, where coach Giampiero Ventura deployed a new-look 4-2-4 formation which overran their opponents in the first half.

Torino frontman Belotti fired Italy ahead on 11 minutes with a close-range finish from a corner before then turning provider for Ciro Immobile to quickly add another.

Antonio Candreva swept in a third and Belotti netted a well-taken fourth just before half-time.

However, Liechtenstein held out during the second half as Italy failed to make the most of several more chances.

Italy boss Ventura, who took over from Antonio Conte following Euro 2016, opted to deploy Marco Verratti alongside Daniele De Rossi in the centre of midfield, while Candreva and Giacomo Bonaventura provided the width.

Torino right-back Davide Zappacosta, 24, was handed his senior international debut.

Italy, now undefeated in their past 54 qualifiers, made a positive start as Immobile beat the offside trap before flicking the ball wide from a tight angle.

Liechtenstein keeper Peter Jehle acrobatically beat away Bonaventura's angled effort before the visitors eventually took a deserved lead on 11 minutes.

Candreva swung a corner in from the right, which was nodded down by a towering header from Alessio Romagnoli and Belotti was alert to stab the ball into the roof of the net from close range.

Before Liechtenstein could regroup, they were 2-0 down.

A ball forwards by Milan midfielder Bonaventura was headed on by Belotti at the edge of the penalty area right into the path of the onrushing Immobile.

The Lazio forward took a touch before slotting past Jehle for a 10th goal in his past nine games.

Italy remained on the offensive as an angled effort from Inter Milan winger Candreva flashed wide and Immobile headed into the side-netting.

On 32 minutes, Candreva scored a third for Italy when he swept the ball in after a positive run and cut-back from the left side of the penalty area by Milan defender Mattia De Sciglio.

There was no let up from Italy, conscious of needing to make up ground on Spain's superior goal difference following their 8-0 win over Liechtenstein in Leon.

Belotti, now sporting a bandage on a cut just above the eye, was flagged offside as he flicked in a cross from the right.

However, he soon netted a well-taken fourth a minute before the break when he collected a chipped pass from Bonaventura and drilled it past Jehle.

Italy continued where they had left off at the start of the second half with Immobile's close-range header and then De Rossi firing wide.

As the hour mark approached, captain Gianluigi Buffon, making his 166th senior appearance, had to rush off his line to clear the ball as Liechtenstein forward Dennis Salanovic raced into the Italian half following a stray back-pass from Zappacosta.

Although Italy remained on the front foot, further goals just would not come.

Belotti spurned a hat trick chance when he sent a glancing header wide and during the closing moments substitute Simone Zaza, the West Ham forward, was denied by the Liechtenstein keeper at close range.