Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli were on target as Italy secured a straightforward 2-0 win over Bulgaria in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Sunday.
Despite going in as the favourites, Italy did not have it easy against Bulgaria, with chances not forthcoming for the majority of the first half. However, the deadlock was broken in the 43rd minute as Andrea Belotti stepped up to convert from the penalty spot after being fouled inside the box by the home team.
The second half followed a similar trend with no clear-cut chances coming either team’s way while both Italy and Bulgaria had penalty shouts turned down by the referee. Belotti came closest to scoring but his lobbed effort bounced off the woodwork while he fired the rebound wide off the mark.
It took a fine finish from substitute Manuel Locatelli in the 82nd minute to put the game to bed, although the Azzurri could have added one more if not for Ciro Immobile missing a chance late on. Nevertheless, the win sees Italy move to the top of Group B in the European Qualifiers.
Here’s how we rated the performances of Roberto Mancini’s men in Sofia on Sunday night.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 6/10
A quiet night in goal for the Italian custodian with Bulgaria hardly creating anything of note. Could have been a tad more accurate with his kicking though.
Alessandro Florenzi: 6/10
A steady display from the Paris Saint-Germain right-back who was solid in his defensive duties and offered an outlet going forward. Failed to create any chances of note, however.
Leonardo Bonucci: 7/10
Rock-solid at the back, the seasoned campaigner did not allow Bulgaria a sniff at the goal as he made one interception and a game-high five clearances. Crisp as usual with his passing from the back and created the chance for Immobile late in the game.
Francesco Acerbi: 6/10
Replacing the injured Giorgio Chiellini in the starting lineup, the 33-year-old did well, alongside Bonucci, to shut down the gates at the back. Composed on the ball as well more the most part, as he misplaced just four of his 73 passes although one of those almost presented Bulgaria with a chance.
Leonardo Spinazzola: 7/10
Love seeing the new Italy play. spinazzola is a must start at LB come summer
— Vito (@superstarflash) March 28, 2021
One of the better performers for Italy on the night, the 28-year-old was a constant threat with his overlapping runs on the left flank. Attempted as many as nine dribbles, completing three of those while also making three key passes – the joint-highest on the night. Looked an improvement on Emerson Palmieri who started last time out.
Nicolo Barella: 6/10
Back into the starting lineup after making a substitute appearance last time out, the Inter Milan midfielder wasn’t quite at his best on the night, even though he did complete two key passes. Failed to offer the usual forward thrust that he brings from the centre.
Stefano Sensi: 6/10
Sitting at the base of the Italian midfield, the Inter Milan ace was tasked with cutting out attacks which he did fairly well while also sprayed some nice passes forward, including one key pass. Could have given away a penalty in the second half though before making way for Locatelli.
Marco Verratti: 7/10
Verratti-Insigne connection is something special
— 10🕊💙 (@tdot_tifoso) March 28, 2021
Carrying on from where he left off against Northern Ireland last time out, Italy’s midfield metronome dictated play from the centre, playing neat passes forward and linking up well with those around him. Involved in the lead-up to the second goal and finished the game with two key passes.
Federico Chiesa: 5.5/10
The Player to Watch in our match preview, the in-form Juventus star failed to carry his momentum to the international stages. Endured a difficult first half as he was unable to get involved heavily. Showed improvement after the break, creating a half-chance for Belotti but underwhelmed in general.
Andrea Belotti: 7/10
— European Qualifiers (@EURO2020) March 28, 2021
Getting the nod ahead of last match’s goalscorer Ciro Immobile, the Torino captain made his chance count as he won the penalty before dispatching it to put Italy in front. Should have had another goal but was denied by the woodwork then lacked the composure to finish off the rebound. Had another penalty shout turned down after the break.
Lorenzo Insigne: 7/10
Dangerous with his movements, Insigne caused a lot of problems from the left-wing. Was involved in both the goals for Italy as he set Belotti on his way leading up to the penalty incident before getting the assist for Locatelli’s strike. Linked up well with Verratti and Spinzzola in the left channel. Finished with two key passes on the night.
Manuel Locatelli: 7/10
Amazing first Italy goal for Locatelli🔥 pic.twitter.com/sbeyZOEc5p
— PatrickYf🇮🇹 (@cfc_foofy) March 29, 2021
Replaced Sensi in the 68th minute and sealed the win for Italy with a brilliant finish. Also played in a couple of key passes, one of which led to a big chance for Immobile. Booked.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo: 6/10
On for Florenzi with a little over twenty minutes left. Defended stoutly.
Ciro Immobile: 5.5/10
Came on for Belotti for the final fifteen minutes. Had two chances but one was deflected over the bar and the other saved. Should have converted at least one of those two.
Federico Bernardeschi: 6.5/10
Federico Bernardeschi created more chances (3) than the entire Bulgaria team combined (1).
He came on in the 75th minute.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 28, 2021
Replaced Chiesa in the 76th minute. Showed good attacking intent and played the joint-highest three key passes despite being on the field for 15 minutes. Booked late on.
Matteo Pessina: N/A
Late substitute for Verratti.