Cesare Prandelli's new-look Italy continue to grow in stature and go from strength to strength after a comfortable two-goal victory in Kiev...
Italy recorded an impressive 2-0 victory over hosts Ukraine, with goals from Giuseppe Rossi and Alessandro Matri sealing the victory in promisingly convincing fashion.
It was well documented in the Italian media that Prandelli experimented with his starting line-up for this match, and it was clear to see that his side lacked chemistry and cohesion at the outset, as Ukraine dominated possession in the early stages.
Unsurprisingly then, it was the home side who began most positively. Yaroslav Rakitskiy’s crisp low effort from considerable distance hit the post just two minutes in with Emiliano Viviano well beaten.
Ukraine had another great opportunity to open the scoring on 16 minutes, with Artem Fedetskiy being delightfully played in behind Domenico Criscito but Viviano did very well to keep out his shot from point-blank range.
Things only seemed to get worse for Italy, as defensive lynchpin Giorgio Chiellini was forced to hobble off with an injury a minute later, and subsequently was replaced by Davide Astori for his Azzurri debut.
However, as the half wore on, Prandelli’s men began to settle down and this improvement was marked with a goal for the visitors. Rossi applied the finish on 28 minutes after Alberto Aquilani’s original shot in the Ukraine box had rebounded in front of the Villarreal forward, and was left with a simple tap-in for 1-0.
The half slowly fizzled out, with not much happening in terms of goal-mouth opportunities in the remaining 19 minutes, although the away team did start to string a few impressive pieces of play together, without much conviction.
Davide Santon and Sebastian Giovinco were the half-time arrivals for Italy as Prandelli felt his team were in a comfortable enough position to take their foot off the gas a little. Rossi was wonderfully played in after being found by a slide-rule pass on 52 minutes, but Olexandr Shovkovskiy was quick off his line to prevent the striker from grabbing his second of the match.
Viviano looked shaky from a Ukraine corner after flapping at the ball mid-air, and he was counting his lucky stars after Rakitskiy's shot back at goal was only a whisker wide.
The home side were beginning to pile the pressure on the four-time World Cup winners, with Yuriy Kalitvintsev's men taking the game to the Italian backline, though without much luck.
However, the Azzurri suffered an unfortunate blow for the remainder of the match, as debutant Davide Astori, who hadn't even started the game, was given his marching orders after receiving a questionable second yellow card on 74 minutes. The Italian players seemed stunned by the decision, and wouldn't let the Cagliari defender walk off the field without a fight.
It was all over by 80 minutes after Italy doubled their lead through substitute Matri with his first goal in Azzurri colours. A brilliant Riccardo Montolivo chip pass was latched onto by Giovinco who intelligently beat the offside trap. His awareness and vision was highlighted with a sublime backheel to strike partner Matri, who clinically executed the finish.
The hosts had two golden opportunities to deny the Italians a victory toward the end. Firstly, Marko Devic's goal was chalked off for offside after neat Ukrainian build-up play, and another dangerous set-piece from the hosts wasn't defended convincingly by the visitors, but they eventually held out for a well-earned victory in the Ukrainian capital.