<
>
2016 European Championship, Group Stage 2016
  • Emanuele Giaccherini (32')
  • Graziano Pellé (90'+3')

Emanuele Giaccherini goal gives Italy victory over Belgium

Emanuele Giaccherini scored in the first half and Graziano Pelle added a second late on as Italy defeated Belgium 2-0 in their opening game at the European Championship on Monday.

Giaccherini provided a tidy finish after a long Leonardo Bonucci pass and also made an important block at the other end as Italy held off a Belgium flurry to top Group E.

The Belgians started as the better team as Radja Nainggolan sent in a boucing shot from 30 yards that forced Gianluigi Buffon to save in the 10th minute.

But Italy withstood the attack and regained their footing after the opening 20 minutes.

The Azzurri were rewarded just after half-hour mark when Bonucci sent in a pinpoint cross from the midfield line over the Belgium defence, and Giaccherini took one touch to settle it before shooting past Thibaut Courtois for the opener.

Italy nearly doubled their advantage five minutes later when Belgium failed to clear their lines following a corner, and Pelle headed the ball just wide of the post from six yards.

Belgium pushed back before the break as Marouane Fellaini played in Kevin De Bruyne, but Giaccherini tracked back to get his foot to the Manchester City man's shot.

After half-time, Belgium nearly equalised on the counter-attack as Romelu Lukaku's first-time shot curled inches past the post.

But Italy also had their share of scoring opportunities as Eder's header forced Courtois to make a diving save to his right.

As Belgium pushed forward, Divock Origi headed a De Bruyne cross over the bar from point-blank range with Buffon helpless in the 82nd minute.

Italy substitute Ciro Immobile then nearly wrapped up the points when he challenged Courtois from distance, but the Chelsea goalkeeper twisted his body around to palm the ball out of danger.

Belgium were left shaking their heads in the 90th minute after another De Bruyne cross sailed an inch over Origi's head, and Fellaini could not get his feet right to turn the ball in.

The Italians looked satisfied to see out the time but found a route forward and Antonio Candreva sent a ball across for Pelle to lash home with nearly the final kick of the game.

Italy lead Group E after taking all three points and Republic or Ireland and Sweden shared a 1-1 draw in the earlier game on Monday.