Stefano Sensi and Ciro Immobile were on target as Italy continued their perfect start to the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini made quite a few changes to his side for the game and this clearly affected the rhythm and momentum that they had built up over the past couple of games. And despite dominating possession, the Azzurri were not able to carve out any major openings in the first half apart from one effort on target that was saved by the Lithuania goalkeeper.
Things improved post the break, though, as Stefano Sensi, who was subbed in at half-time, made an instant impact, handing Italy the lead just two minutes after he came on. From that point on, Mancini’s side troubled the hosts’ goal quite a fair bit, with Matteo Pessina and Ciro Immobile having their shots saved while Manuel Locatelli also came close.
However, the second goal was not forthcoming for Italy, who suffered a scare at the other end when Tautvydas Eliosius had a go, although Gianluigi Donnarumma denied him. Deep into stoppage time, the Azzurri were able to kill the game as Ciro Immobile converted from the penalty spot to make it 2-0. Here’s how we rated the performances of Mancini’s men on the night in Vilnius.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 6/10
Not a lot to do on the night for the Italian goalkeeper as Lithuania did not always threaten a great going forward. Did show good alertness to make a key stop in the second period with the scoreline still at 1-0.
Rafael Toloi: 6/10
A memorable outing for Rafael Toloi as he made his debut for the Italy national team. Starting on the right side of the defence, the Atalanta man was a solid presence at the back, although he was not able to much in the way of offensive support on his flank. Did manage a key pass, though.
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@azzurri) March 31, 2021
Gianluca Mancini: 6.5/10
Coming in for Leonardo Bonucci, the AS Roma man also had a solid outing for Italy, as he made four interceptions – the most by any Italian player on the night – while also winning the highest number of aerial duels (8). Fairly accurate with his distribution as well. A rather easy outing.
Alessandro Bastoni: 6.5/10
Replaced Francesco Acerbi in the lineup from the game against Bulgaria and put up a strong showing at the back as he won four aerial duels and four tackles while also effecting a couple of interceptions. Passing was crisp as usual from the Inter Milan man.
Emerson Palmieri: 5.5/10
Showed glimpses of his attacking quality on the left flank as he got forward and had a couple of shots at goal. But, he was not able to affect the proceedings greatly and made way for Leonardo Spinazzola early in the second half.
Matteo Pessina: 6/10
Starting in the middle of the park in the absence of Marco Verratti, the Atalanta man showed his ability to create chances as he played in three key passes while also coming close to scoring in the second half. Misplaced just four of his 37 passes on the night before making way for Nicolo Barella.
Manuel Locatelli: 7/10
Manuel Locatelli (23) vs Lithuania:
3 Key Passes
10/15 Long Balls
9/12 Duels Won
The all-around midfielder for Italy and Sassuolo! He has developed so much in 3 years, and he is truly looking like the starter for a long time in Italy! pic.twitter.com/tqscjExGzA
— Football Breakdown (@FootballBreakd2) March 31, 2021
Back into the side, the Sassuolo midfielder offered control in the middle of the park for Italy, keeping things ticking along nicely while also trying to force some openings. Played three key passes, one of which was the assist for Sensi’s goal in the second half. Did his bit off the ball as well, making three tackles. Booked.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 5/10
Back into the starting lineup after being benched for the last game, the AS Roma captain endured another sub-par outing. Booked early on and never really imposed himself on the proceedings. Was hooked off at half-time.
Federico Bernardeschi: 5.5/10
Starting on the right wing, the Juventus man may have managed to complete three key passes on the night but none of them led to any major chances. Showed some neat footwork every now and then but was not able to provide that bit of cutting edge that was needed.
Ciro Immobile: 6.5/10
Ciro Immobile vs. Lithuania:
◉ Most shots (6)
◉ Most shots on target (4)
◉ Most chances created (4)
He has now scored 21 goals in 37 games for club and country this season. pic.twitter.com/dWr3643XkU
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 31, 2021
A bit of a frustrating outing for Italy’s centre-forward who was not quite clearly at his best and was not able to put away the chances that came his way. Had a shot saved in the second half and headed wide from another opportunity. Did get the second goal from the penalty spot though, while also playing in a game-high four key passes.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 5/10
A selection that will have raised some eyebrows given how little El Shaarawy has played this term, but the AS Roma man looked keen on justifying his starting berth as he had five shots. None of those were on target though and he was taken off at half-time.
Stefano Sensi: 7/10
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@azzurri) March 31, 2021
Replaced Pellegrini at half-time. Made an immediate impact after coming on as he put Italy in front with a well-taken goal. Distributed the ball well and also played in two key passes, with the one to Immobile particularly standing out. Impact substitution.
Federico Chiesa: 5/10
Half-time substitute for the ineffective El Shaarawy. Showed good energy, but was not able to contribute much.
Leonardo Spinazzola: 6/10
Replaced Emerson ten minutes into the second half. An upgrade on the man he replaced as his presence added a bit more attacking impetus on the left.
Nicolo Barella: 6/10
On for Pessina a little past the hour mark. Won the penalty that led to the second goal late on.
Francesco Acerbi: N/A
Late substitute for Bastoni.