Euro 2016 qualifying: Simple for Simone Zaza as Italy tame toothless Norway
Simone Zaza made the most of the suspended Mario Balotelli`s absence up front by scoring the opening goal to pave the way for Italy`s comfortable 2-0 win over Norway in a Euro 2016 Group H qualifier on Tuesday.
Rome: Simone Zaza made the most of the suspended Mario Balotelli`s absence up front by scoring the opening goal to pave the way for Italy`s comfortable 2-0 win over Norway in a Euro 2016 Group H qualifier on Tuesday.
The Sassuolo striker, surprisingly brought into the squad by new coach Antonio Conte, struck with a deflected shot after 16 minutes and also hit the crossbar and had an another effort cleared off the line before being substituted.
The 23-year-old Zaza repaid Conte`s faith immediately, winning a penalty on his debut in the 2-0 friendly victory over Netherlands in Bari on Thursday before scoring in Oslo.
"He is a player of great desire and pride and he and the others have given a good example of that tonight," Conte told a news conference.
The Norwegians offered little resistance, enjoying plenty of possession in front of a sell-out crowd but failing to threaten Gianluigi Buffon`s goal.
Their best attacks came down Italy`s left flank as livewire Mats Moeller Daehli displayed his full bag of tricks and dribbles but the winger faded in the second half, as did the home team`s chances.
Missing Balotelli and playmaker Andrea Pirlo, Conte`s first competitive game in charge saw him field a relatively young team that favoured industry over flair.
With Mattia De Sciglio and Matteo Darmian playing wide in a five-man midfield, Italy began by probing the spaces behind Norway`s full backs.
Conte`s team defended from the front, with Zaza and Ciro Immobile energetically leading the chase to win the ball back when their side gave it away.
The visitors took the lead fortuitously when Zaza`s effort took a deflection and wrong-footed keeper Orjan Nyland before bouncing into the net.
Norway`s defence was too passive for the goal and should have shut down the Italy striker before he shot.
Captain Leonardo Bonucci again punished Norway in the 62nd minute, rising unmarked to power home a downward header from substitute Manuel Pasqual`s cross.
Italy could have made it 3-0 in the 77th minute when Zaza went one-on-one with Nyland but his rising shot cannoned back off the crossbar and Alessandro Florenzi`s header from the rebound was palmed away by the keeper.
Zaza had another one-on-one with Nyland a few minutes later. This time his delicate chip was cleared off the line and he was replaced by Mattia Destro soon after.
Conte said his side played an "almost perfect game", adding "it`s important to create that kind of team spirit, a team with a capital T".