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Hello, and welcome along to our liveblog of the U21 European Championship qualifier between Italy and the Republic of Ireland.

We’ll keep you updated here, with the game due to begin in Pisa at 4pm Irish time.

An outbreak of Covid-19 in the Italy squad led to the postponement of their clash with Iceland in Reykjavik last Friday. With the number of players who have tested positive rising to seven yesterday, the Italian Football Federation has taken the decision to field its U20 team against Ireland instead.

However, they do have four U21 players in their side too. Included in that quartet are midfield linchpin Sandro Tonali, who recently joined AC Milan, and Wolverhampton Wanderers (on loan at Fiorentina) striker Patrick Cutrone.

The main talking point on the team news front for Ireland is an U21 debut for Southampton midfielder Will Smallbone.

Italy: Michele Cerofolini, Alessandro Vogliacco, Gianluca Frabotta, Sandro Tonali, Alessandro Buongiorno, Lorenzo Pirola, Samuele Birindelli, Samuele Ricci, Patrick Cutrone, Simone Muratore, Riccardo Sottil.

Republic of Ireland: Gavin Bazunu, Lee O’Connor, Conor Masterson, Nathan Collins, Darragh Leahy, Conor Coventry, Jack Taylor, Will Smallbone, Connor Ronan, Zack Elbouzedi, Michael Obafemi.

With Ireland playing in white, the game is underway.

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

4 – In the absence of Jayson Molumby, who’s away on senior duty, Ireland are being captained today by Queens Park Rangers centre-back Conor Masterson.

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

5 – No chances to report yet but Ireland are controlling possession so far.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

6 – Concern there for Ireland as Frabotta made a great run into the box but the visitors eventually cleared the danger.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

7 – Two important blocks by Nathan Collins kept Italy at bay during that last passage of play.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

8 – Good chance for Ireland as the ball falls to Jack Taylor on the edge of the box but the Peterborough United midfielder’s half-volley is off target.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

10 – Excellent work by Zack Elbouzedi earns a corner for Ireland, but it’s easily cleared by the Italians.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

11 – Taylor tries a shot from distance which is comfortably saved by Cerofolini.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

12 – Birindelli gets forward down the right for Italy but balloons his cross out of play. 

Tonali currently hobbling after getting a kick on the ankle from Coventry.

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

14 – Danger for Ireland as Frabotta does well again on the left. His low cross is missed by Cutrone but the whistle blew for an offside against the Fiorentina striker in any case.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

15 – That was a warning for Ireland. Frabotta looks a very handy player for the home side.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

17 – Italy attack down the left through Frabotta again. The ball breaks to Sottil, whose attempt to flick a volley towards Bazunu’s goal sails wide.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

20 – Italy corner taken by corner comes to nothing. Obafemi attempts to break but is fouled by Pirola.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

22 – Regarding Gianluca Frabotta, who we’ve mentioned a few times, the 21-year-old left-back made his Serie A debut for Juventus in August.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

23 – Italy starting to take control of this game now. Ireland lacking ideas in attack at the minute.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

25 – Superb stuff again down the left by Elbouzedi but his inviting cross goes to waste.

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

27 – Muratore gets a shot away for Italy, which is easily dealt with by Bazunu.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

29 – Tonali bends a dangerous free-kick in the direction of Cutrone at the back post. Cutrone misses it and, much to Bazunu’s relief, it goes wide.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

30 – Another great run by Elbouzedi, who attempts a through ball for Obafemi, but the goalkeeper comes to claim it.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

31- Great play by Ireland allows Smallbone to send in a cross from the right but there’s no one there to meet it.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

32 – Corner for Ireland taken by Smallbone is cleared by Italy.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

33 – A chance for Obafemi – again created by Elbouzedi – comes to nothing as his shot is blocked by a sea of Italian bodies.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

34 – Great chance for Ireland. Elbouzedi involved again before Leahy sends in a brilliant cross. O’Connor arrived just a fraction of a second too late.

 

Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland

36 – A major let-off! Ireland squander possession as Masterson and Coventry sought to exchange passes on the edge of their own box. The ball fell kindly to Sottil, who fired over. Best chance of the game so far.

 

Italy 1-0 Republic of Ireland

43 – Disappointment for Ireland as Italy hit the front just before the break. Frabotta’s searching ball finds Sottil down the left. He’s allowed to turn inside onto his right foot too easily, beating Masterson before tucking the ball inside Bazunu’s far post.

The game has resumed.

Italy 1-0 Republic of Ireland

48 – Ireland go close! Smallbone’s free-kick to the back post misses Collins but substitute Portanova almost turns the ball into his own net. Instead it goes over for a corner, from which Ronan has a shot blocked.

Italy 1-0 Republic of Ireland

50 – Frabotta plays in Ricci, whose low cross is smothered by Bazunu.

Italy 1-0 Republic of Ireland

52 – Free-kick for Ireland from the right is sent in by Smallbone and headed clear to Ronan, who drills a low shot from 25 yards out which doesn’t have enough power to trouble the goalkeeper.

Italy 1-0 Republic of Ireland

59 – After a bright start to the second half from Ireland, the tempo has now dropped, which suits Italy just fine as they protect their lead.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

63 – Ireland have a mountain to climb now. Sottil breaks down the right and squares for Cutrone, who beats Bazunu with a neat finish from close range.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

64 – Elbouzedi looks to issue an immediate response for Ireland but his effort is deflected into the side netting, before the resultant corner is cleared.

 

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

67 – A fairly farcical yellow card for Collins there for holding off Cutrone, who conned the ref by feigning that he’d been elbowed.

 

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

70 – Twenty minutes remaining for Ireland to salvage something here. A goal for the visitors would set up a very exciting finish.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

73 – A chance for Smallbone to send in a decent free-kick but it’s overhit and the opportunity is squandered.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

75 – Ireland preparing to make changes.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

75 – Afolabi, Grant and Mandroiu replace Obafemi, Taylor and Ronan.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

80 – Ireland exerting some pressure now in search of a goal, the Italians retreating deep.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

81 – Smallbone delivers another dead-ball but again Italy get it clear.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

82 – Sottil looked to be in there for Italy, but Coventry intervened to prevent them from grabbing a third.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

83 – Brilliant cross from the right by O’Connor is thwarted by excellent defending by Pirola.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

90 – Grant wins a late corner, which Smallbone takes. Again, it’s cleared by a disciplined Italian defence.

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

90 – Four additional minutes being played.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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