SPORTS

Italy punishes deflated Greece in Athens

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Soccer

Italy ran riot at the Greek defense in the first half to score three goals in 10 minutes and secure an easy 3-0 win in Athens on Saturday, against a deflated Greece that suffered its first loss at the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

In the presence of some 25,000 fans, including 300 Italians, the visitors had the upper hand from the start of the game at the Olympic Stadium. However they did not get to pose any threat to the Greek defense until the halfway point of the first half.

Greece manager Angelos Anastasiadis fielded three central defenders and no center forward, opting to keep the top scorer of the Super League, Efthymis Koulouris, on the bench and start playmaker Costas Fortounis as a false 9.

The Greeks started pushing forward after the 20th minute and paid for it immediately, as the absence of a proper right-back allowed Andrea Belotti to make inroads from the left and cross the ball to an unmarked Nicolo Barella who opened the score on the 23rd.

Just seven minutes later Italy doubled its lead in another counter attack, with Lorenzo Insigne storming into the box and powering a shot past defender Costas Manolas and keeper Vassilis Barkas.

Then on the 33rd it was another cross from the left for Italy by Belotti, with Leonardo Bonucci rising practically unchallenged from close range to head the ball in for 3-0. That was three goals in three chances for Italy.

In the second half Greece opted for damage limitation, in an effort to avert an even worse result. Fortounis had a decent shot palmed away by Salvatore Sirigu on the 69th, while the Italians had at least five chances to add to their tally.

The Greeks will need to up their game considerably to beat Armenia on Tuesday at the same ground, as dropping any points there would be disastrous. They have four points from three games.

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