Source:- Reuters Files
Italy's first win since being named European champions came thanks to forwards Moise Kean and Giacomo Raspadori, who led the team to a 5-0 victory over Lithuania to keep their grip on first place in World Cup qualification Group C.
The two 21-year-olds wowed their manager in the first half, with Kean scoring twice each side of an Edgaras Utkus own goal, and Raspadori, who was making his maiden start for his country, also scoring.
"Everything is in their heads and their feet. If they are committed and work seriously, they have great futures. But it is up to them," Italy manager Roberto Mancini told RAI.
It was the first time Italy scored four goals in the first 30 minutes of a match after painful draws against Bulgaria and Switzerland in their previous two qualifiers.
As the Azzurri comfortably extended their record international unbeaten run to 37 matches, Giovanni Di Lorenzo accidently added a fifth goal with a second-half cross-shot that nestled in the bottom corner.
"The guys responded well on the pitch, despite losing so many players over the last few days. Scoring five or six goals is not simple," Mancini said.
Following their 0-0 draw away to Northern Ireland, Italy leads the standings with 14 points, six ahead of second-placed Switzerland. Lithuania stayed at the bottom of the standings with a score of 0 points.
After Italy's two previous draws yielded only one goal, Mancini replied by making eight changes to his injury-plagued lineup, including Kean and Raspadori.
When Kean pounced on a faulty back pass to tuck in the opener from close range, and Raspadori's shot hit Utkus and rebounded in, they quickly justified their selection.
Raspadori of Sassuolo scored with a straightforward finish from close range on his home pitch at the Mapei Stadium, and Kean made it four with a cushioned volley into the top corner on the 29th minute.
"It is hard to understand what happened. It is a beautiful moment that came in my club stadium, in front of my family. It was perfect," Raspadori said.
After the break, Italy came out firing, with Raspadori's second goal of the night disallowed for offside, and Di Lorenzo's cross-shot eluding everyone to hit the net.
Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell was the hero in Belfast, saving Haris Seferovic's first-half penalty to earn a 0-0 draw with Switzerland.
Ian Baraclough's side moved up to third position, one point ahead of Bulgaria on goal difference and three points behind Switzerland.
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