FIFA World Cup: Azzurri off to a good start as goals from Pellè, Candreva and Immobile were enough to beat Israel

Ventura’s Italy have picked up their first three points. They came in the first match on the way to Russia 2018 in the opening fixture played away at Israel‘s home in Haifa. It was tough but deserved 3-1 win as the Azzurri’s determination and character shone through at the toughest moments after Giorgio Chiellini was sent off after 55 minutes. Italy had a good first half as Pellè opened the scoring in the 15th minute before Candreva made it 2-0 from the spot after 32 minutes. Ben Haim closed the gap after 35 minutes before Immobile made it 3-1 to wrap up the points in the 83rd minute. Ventura also impressed as he stuck with two up front despite going a man down and that made a difference in the end.

The coach stuck with a 3-5-2 formation for his competitive debut with some changes in personnel. Buffon was in goal behind Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci. In midfield, De Rossi’s injury opened space for Verratti to feature as a playmaker with Parolo and Bonaventura alongside him while Candreva and Antonelli were out wide. Up front was the duo of Pellè and Eder.

It was Italy’s first time at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa and the ground was sold out for the occasion.  It was not the first encounter against Israel with the three previous meetings against the 76th ranked side in the world culminating in two wins and one draw. After a moment of remembrance for the victims of the Italian earthquake, Ventura’s side began to play with a good rhythm. Antonelli and Bonaventura made dangerous runs while Parolo covered. One of these led to the opening goal as in the 15th minute Verratti picked out Antonelli on the left and he was able to square it to Pellè who poked home into the empty net to take his international scoring  total up to nine.

The side looked focused and careful in the first 30 minutes. That was made the most of in the 32nd minute as Ben Bitton brought down Bonaventura and the Russian referee awarded a penalty. Candreva then stepped up to send Goresh the wrong way. Italy were then surprised three minutes later. Chiellini lost the ball and Ben Haim was able to lob Buffon with a perfect, delicate effort. The Azzurri looked to respond straight away through Eder who saw his effort saved down by Goresh. The Israeli goalkeeper also had to make an important save just before the half-time whistle from a Pellè header. The Azzurri were working well with Antonelli and Bonaventura in wider positions but also through Verratti in the middle.

The second half opened with Eder putting a shot past the post with a chipped shot. Things became more difficult in the 52nd minute as Israel came out and forced Buffon to make a save from Nir Bitton. Then in the 55th minute, Chiellini picked up his second yellow and his teammates were left a man down. Forced to shore things up, Ventura substituted Bonaventura for Ogbonna in the 63rd minute and he also brought Florenzi on for Candreva straight after. In the meantime, Italy were made to defend. Israel forced two important saves from Buffon and he was able to push a Zahavi effort round the post. The final change came in the 71st minute with Immobile on for Eder. The Azzurri were struggling at this point. Then, in the 83rd minute, Pellè nodded the ball down to Immobile who made it 3-1 with a great finish across goal and he had a chance to net his second three minutes later.

It was an important win that came just a few days after the defeat to France in Bari and there is a month to go until the next task in this World Cup qualifying group against Spain in Turin on Thursday 6th October.