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Italy ride their luck to see off 10-man Armenia

An Andrea Belotti brace and a solitary effort from substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini settled a spicy contest.

Italy celebrate against Armenia.
Italy celebrate against Armenia.

UNBEATEN ITALY TOOK another step towards the Euro 2020 finals with a 3-1 Group J win in Armenia.

An Andrea Belotti brace and a solitary effort from substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini settled a spicy contest in Yerevan against hosts who played the full second half with 10 men.

Armenia could count themselves unlucky, losing their early goal-scorer Aleksandre Karapetyan to a controversial red card just before the break.

They matched Italy for long stretches in the second half, but two goals in three minutes scuppered their hopes of reward.

Armenia took an 11th-minute lead when Tigran Barseghyan beat Nicolo Barella to a loose ball and fed Karapetyan, who drilled a low shot across Gianluigi Donnarumma into the right corner.

Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri levelled in the 28th minute when Emerson’s cross from the left was volleyed in smartly by Belotti.

Federico Bernardeschi might have put Italy ahead a minute later when he was allowed to run at the Armenian defence from the right before striking a curling left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area that scraped the bar.

Armenia suffered the body blow of losing Karapetyan who was punished for what the referee contentiously considered an elbowing offence on Leonardo Bonucci.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been quiet until the hour mark when he went on a slaloming run – Barella tripped him near the edge of the box.

Armenia almost scored from the free-kick, with Varazdat Haroyan shooting just over the bar.

But Italy shattered the Armenians in the 77th minute when Pellegrini got ahead of his marker to head in a cross swung over from the right by Bonucci.

They got lucky with the third, Belotti rifling a shot against the foot of the right post, with the ball bouncing in off goalkeeper Aram Airapetyan. The striker had another late goal chalked off for offside.

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