Italy pip Belgium to UNL bronze medal

UEFA Nations League

Italy claimed third place in the UEFA Nations League after defeating Belgium 2-1 at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Italy started Francesco Acerbi in place of the suspended Leonardo Bonucci, whilst the Belgians showed no Romelu Lukaku but named Kevin De Bruyne on the bench.

The Azzurri showed the first danger in the earlier periods with quick shots from close-range by Federico Chiesa and Domenico Berardi’s aim from afar that Thibaut Courtois snapped.

Play shifted though midway in the first half as Alexis Saelemaekers threatened the breakthrough for Belgium from a first-time shot inside the area but he was smothered by the woodwork.

Still, the Azzurri possessed the balance of play and with a minute to halftime should’ve banged the front from a move far wide by Chiesa but after staying onside, he dragged Berardi’s pass wide.

Italy’s dominant first spell bore fruits seconds in the second half after Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella spotted a flick on following a precise corner-kick to volley into the near post.

The Red Devils launched a huge scare eight minutes from going behind with Michy Batshuayi’s shot from a tight angle shaving the crossbar, with De Bruyne and Charles De Ketelaere introduced.

Roberto Mancini’s boys recovered with 63 minutes gone and made it two when despite a strong palm Courtois couldn’t parry Berardi from the spot after Chiesa succumbed to Timothy Castagne’s challenge.

Belgium bombarded the Italians goal under ten minutes before time, as Yannick Carrasco smashed the foot of the post from a square-pass in the box.

Their momentum finally paid off in the last three minutes after substitute Charles De Ketelaere ran in from a tight angle to squeeze a low shot past Gianluigi Donnarruma.

Mancini’s charges though didn’t lose momentum but picked up the win and third place amidst a nervy closing spell.

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