Pelle cracker caps Italy win over Belgium


Goals in either half from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle ensured Italy hit the ground running at Euro 2016 as the Azzurri condemned highly-fancied Belgium to a 2-0 defeat on Monday.Marc Wilmot’s Belgium, the highest ranked side coming into the European championship finals, dominated for long spells of the Group E clash at the Stade de Lyon.But Giaccherini’s strike just after the half hour and Southampton striker Pelle’s stunning finish in stoppage time meant it was future Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s men who took the three points.However, Conte refused to get carried away as Italy crashed out the World Cup two years ago at the group stage despite beating England in their opening game.”I don’t think a single game can change people’s assessments and we still have an open wound from the World Cup when even a good performance against England meant nothing as we still went out,” said Conte, who suffered a cut to his face during wild celebrations of Italy’s opening goal.”That open wound from two years ago needs to burn in the players.”They have realised that to make waves here they need to do something extraordinary, nothing ordinary.”Sweden’s 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland earlier at the Stade de France means Italy go top of the group.However, Belgium now face a crucial clash with Ireland on Saturday in Bordeaux if they are to avoid an embarrassing early exit.”We have to win our next two games now to make the knock-out stages,” said Belgium boss Marc Wilmots, who refused to blame off colour Premier League stars Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.”De Bruyne and Lukaku didn’t have the best of nights, but I don’t want to criticise individuals.”Belgium dominated the opening exchanges under torrential rain in Lyon on their first appearance at a European finals since co-hosting Euro 2000.The Red Devils tested Italy’s veteran skipper Gianluigi Buffon, appearing at his 11th major finals, when a well-worked move involving Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini allowed Radja Nainggolan a long-range strike on 10 minutes which forced Buffon into a diving save.
Yet, Italy’s ‘BBC’ defence, Andre Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, stood firm to deny the Belgian attack and the Italians then took the game by the scruff of the neck midway through the first-half which yielded Giaccherini’s opener.Approaching the half-hour mark, Pelle had Italy’s first clear chance when his strike from outside the area flew wide of Thibaut Courtois’s far post.On 32 minutes, Bonucci’s long floated pass found Giaccherini in behind the Belgium defence to stroke his shot past Courtois.The opening goal spurred on the Italian attack and Candreva’s shot forced a save before Pelle headed wide as the Italians finished the stronger of the first-half.The Belgians were first to threaten after the break and Lukaku had his head in his hands as his shot clipped the post on 52 minutes before Hazard’s crisp shot tested.

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