Cerri penalty secures valuable point for Italy against Serbia on the path to the European Championship

Without Donnarumma who made his senior debut the night before, plus the inured Mandragora and Berardi, Di Biagio went with a 4-4-2. Alessio Romagnoli was at the heart of the defence after being ‘borrowed’ from Ventura’s side to offer quality and experience. In midfield, Cataldi and Mazzitelli were entrusted to run the engine room with the captain Benassi and Verre on the flanks. Up front, Rossetti and Cerri started with both after their third Italy goal.
A draw or win would have been a positive result for Italy as Di Biagio explained in advance and in such situations, it’s better to avoid making too many calculations. The Azzurrini were ready to go and the scorer from the previous encounter Danilo Catadli looked to find the net from distance in the 11th minute. Mazzitelli lost the ball as Serbia had their first real chance but Gacinovic wasn’t able to convert Milinkovic-Savic’s high ball. Gacinovic was among the liveliest players as he created things down the right and Meleg hit the post from a corner with Cragno beaten. The pace wasn’t very high considering the heat and Serbia insisted on knocking the ball around while waiting for space to open up. The opening goal came in the 33rd minute with a thunderous strike by Grajic who beat Cragno from the edge of the area. Italy felt the effect of the goal and risked going 2-0 down soon after as Grunjic narrowly missed the goal with a header. Something had to change and the Azzurrini came back out with the right attitude. Alessio Romagnoli had two chances to level early into the second half. Then in the 53rd minute Rossetti was brought down by the goalkeeper and the referee Del Cerro pointed to the spot. Cerri made no mistake with a precise shot into the corner beyond Milinkovic-Savic. Di Francesco’s arrival brought energy to the side and the Bologna attacker went close twice to making it 2-1. The sides inevitably dropped off towards the end with Milinkovic-Savic misplacing the final ball after a good move. At the other end, Mazzitelli wasn’t able to find a way through from a free kick won by the lively Di Francesco. In the end, Cerri was able to make an important intervention to see off the final way of Serbia’s attacks. “In the first half we weren’t able to up the tempo,” said Di Biagio. “They did well in possession. We weren’t able to assert ourselves but we reacted brilliantly and this allowed us to take home a vital point. Credit to them as they are a great side. Credit to my boys also because they were able to take the strain when not playing at their best.” Alberto Cerri can celebrate after scoring a goal which opens various possible routes to qualification. “The team deserves the credit, not me,” said the Spal attacker. “We started slowly but we played a good game against a great Serbia.” The side will play on Tuesday in Spezia at 18:30 CEST against Andorra in the penultimate group game where three points will mean the European Championship really is just a step away.

Group Two Standings – ITALY 20 points, Slovenia 15, Serbia 14, Republic of Ireland 9, Lithuania 6, Andorra 3

The Squad Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Benevento), Alex Meret (Spal), Simone Scuffet (Udinese);
Defenders: Davide Biraschi (Avellino), Arturo Calabresi (Brescia), Davide Calabria (Milan), Mattia Caldara (Atalanta), Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Adam Masina (Bologna), Nicola Murru (Cagliari), Filippo Romagna (Juventus), **Alessio Romagnoli (Milan);
Midfielders: Marco Benassi (Torino), Danilo Cataldi (Lazio), Alberto Grassi (Napoli), Luca Mazzitelli (Sassuolo); Lorenzo Pellegrini (Sassuolo), Valerio Verre (Pescara);
Forwards: *Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Alberto Cerri (Spal), Federico Di Francesco (Bologna), Luca Garritano (Cesena), Gaetano Monachello (Bari), Vittorio Parigini (Chievo Verona), Federico Ricci (Roma), Valerio Lorenzo Rosseti (Lugano).
*Injured, he has left the squad
**He joined the squad from the senior side Staff – Delegation head: Giancarlo Antognoni; Accompanying director Vincenzo Martinelli; Coach: Luigi Di Biagio; Assistant coach: Carmine Nunziata; Secretary: Emiliano Cozzi; Goalkeeping coach: Antonio Chimenti; Fitness coach: Vito Azzone; Doctors: Angelo De Carli and Luca Gatteschi; Physiotherapists: Enzo Paolini, Guido Mauro Ferrini and Maurizio Fagorzi; Equipment managers: Claudio Gagliardi and Andrea Russo. Schedule  Saturday 3rd September
10:30 training at the Stadio in Caldogno (behind closed doors) Sunday 4th September
10:30 training at the Stadio in Caldogno (open to the public)
16:30 transfer to Hotel Europa in La Spezia Monday 5th September
12:30 Press Conference at La Spezia Council Chambers (coach)
17:30 training at the Stadio Alberto Picco in La Spezia (first 15’ open to press) Tuesday 6th September
18:30 ITALY-ANDORRA at the Stadio Alberto Picco in La Spezia. Meeting with press at full-time followed by return of players to their clubs. ]]>