Italy boss Roberto Mancini focusing on crucial games

Press Association Sport 09:01 27/03/2019
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Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini expects Italy‘s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bosnia and Greece in June to be “fundamental games for the group.”

Italy posted a second successive win at the start of their qualifying campaign by brushing aside Liechtenstein 6-0 in Parma.

Liechtenstein played the second half with 10 men after Daniel Kaufmann was sent off, but Italy had already inflicted too much damage, scoring four first half goals.

Veteran Fabio Quagliarella became Italy’s oldest international goalscorer at 36 when he converted the first of two penalties.

And they followed goals by Stefano Sensi and Marco Verratti, before Juventus star Moise Kean added a fifth 20 minutes from time and Leonardo Pavoletti completed the scoring.

“We had the right approach from the start,” Italy manager Mancini told Rai Sport.

“The win was assumed, but it was important to keep the right concentration levels and score a lot of goals.

“It was crucial that we created lots of chances and passing moves to make it a real game.

“In June, Bosnia and Greece will probably be fundamental games for the group.”

And Quagliarella added: “It’s a wonderful evening with two goals.

“I am 36-years-old, but I don’t feel it. I am happy, physically in good shape.

“I thank Roberto Mancini, who watched me throughout the season and gave me this opportunity.

“We are top of the group, and it’s a young squad that can only grow.”

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Gabriel Jesus scores late brace as Brazil prove too strong for Czech Republic

Press Association Sport 08:36 27/03/2019
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Gabriel Jesus

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus scored two late goals to give Brazil a 3-1 victory in their friendly international against the Czech Republic in Prague.

Jesus struck during the closing minutes after Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino cancelled out David Pavelka’s first-half opener for the home side.

Czech Republic manager Jaroslav Silhavy made four changes from the side beaten 5-0 by England last Friday, including a recall for former captain Marek Suchy.

Brazil, meanwhile, paraded the likes of Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson as they looked for a vastly-improved performance after arriving in Prague following a 1-1 draw against Panama.

Brazil took time to find their pattern, while the home side were a far more organised and impressive outfit than the one on show at Wembley.

And they deservedly took the lead eight minutes before half-time when Pavelka fired a left-footed shot from outside the box that beat Alisson.

Brazil also had Casemiro and Richarlison booked during the opening half, but they were level just four minutes after the break.

The Czech Republic were powerless to prevent Firmino from finding the target with a close-range strike, and that set the tone for a dominant second-half display by the South Americans.The home side would have been hopeful of holding out for a draw, but Jesus had other ideas.

He pounced seven minutes from time with a close-range shot to put Brazil ahead, before sealing victory in the closing seconds.

His second goal was also a right-footed effort, leaving Brazil to reflect on a far more convincing display than what they produced against Panama in Porto.

The Czech Republic, meanwhile, were left to reflect on another defeat, with eight goals conceded in two games during the last six days.

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Alvaro Morata dedicates Spain win to coach Luis Enrique

Press Association Sport 08:05 27/03/2019
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Alvaro Morata

Alvaro Morata dedicated Spain’s 2-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Malta to coach Luis Enrique, who missed the match at the National Stadium – Ta’Qali for personal reasons.

Assistant Robert Moreno took charge of the team, which showed some nine changes from Saturday’s victory over Norway in Valencia.

Morata, on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea, broke the deadlock in the 31st minute when he latched onto a chip from Mario Hermoso to slot a neat angled finish under the goalkeeper.

Malta, who had camped out in front of their own penalty area for long spells, were finally opened up again in the 73rd minute when Jesus Navas’ cross from the right was headed in by Morata.

Spain’s comfortable, if not comprehensive, victory sees them top of Group F, with maximum points from their opening two matches.

“Today we had more motivation to win for our coach. He deserves this,” Morata told reporters, as quoted by Spanish media outlet Marca. “We hope things go as well as possible for him.”

Moreno admitted the absence of Enrique, the former Barcelona coach in his first qualification campaign as La Roja boss, was tough for everyone involved.

“It’s the hardest day as a professional, it’s a shame, I hope everything goes well,” the Spain assistant coach said in a post-match press conference.

“It was not easy to enter the game, when things like this happen, they make the group stronger. We knew we had to do well for the national team and for Luis.”

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had come in for Manchester United’s David De Gea, while there were starts for Valencia defender Jose Luis Gaya, Atleti midfielder Saul Niguez and Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto.

Despite the changes, Spain eventually found their way past a resolute defensive display from the home side.

Moreno said: “It was what we expected; they shut up shop.

“Attacking such a compact team isn’t easy and the conditions of the game made things tougher. We created chances and it’s a shame not to have scored more.”

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