Ten-man England beat Italy 1-2 as Gareth Southgate’s side kick-started their Euro 2024 qualification campaign by beating the defending European Champions.
Two first half goals saw England over the line with Harry Kane becoming England’s all-time top goalscorer when he converted a spot kick just before halftime.
Declan Rice grabbed the first in a game full of drama, with Mateo Retegui also scoring on his Azzurri debut.
Luke Shaw was dismissed in the 80th minute receiving a second yellow card meaning his teammates had to hang on for ten minutes a man down to see the game out.
Southgate’s England side kicked off their Euro 2024 qualification campaign with a tough trip to Naples to face the defending European Champions Italy. Prior to this game England hadn’t won away in Italy since 1961 but this stat will not have phased the England camp as they’d rewritten history many times since Southgate took over.
There were only two changes to the England side that got knocked out of the World Cup just 103 days ago. Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips took the places of Phil Foden and Jordan Henderson with the latter having a recent period of illness jeopardising his fitness ahead of the game.
The game started as many expected with both teams attempting to figure each other out and trying to dictate the tempo. The Italians seemed to want to keep the ball moving quickly and find space in behind Luke Shaw and Kyle Walker when the full-backs joined the attack. England were happy slowing the game down and frustrating Roberto Mancini’s side, carefully picking out openings down the flanks.
In the 12th minute Grealish ventured down the right before cutting inside and finding Jude Bellingham in a central position. The teenager drove forward and thundered a strike on target which Gianluigi Donnarumma could only tip over the bar giving England a corner.
Bukayo Saka’s inswinger was taken down by Kane on the back post and his shot blocked but Rice was on hand to turn the ball in from close range when the ball landed at his feet. This was the West Ham stars third goal for his country giving England the lead early in the first half.
Phillips had an opportunity to double England’s lead just over half-an-hour in. Bellingham once again involved, nicked the ball off Jorginho in the middle of the park and passed to Phillips, but he dragged his shot just inches wide of the post.
Just before halftime England scored their second. It came from the penalty spot after Giovanni Di Lorenzo was penalised for handling the ball inside the box when he attempted to stop Kane bringing the ball down from a corner.
The pressure was on Kane to convert the spot kick as his last in England colours was when he cleared the crossbar in a World Cup quarter-final against France which the England captain’s side went on to lose.
Despite this, Kane made no mistake this time sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and converting from 12-yards. This goal made Kane the all-time England top scorer with 54 for his country surpassing Wayne Rooney who he was previously level with.
Southgate will have been much the happier manager going into half-time with his side having a two-goal lead without having to reach more than third gear.
Italy raised the tempo after halftime with Mancini evidently instructing his midfielders to press higher up the pitch and not allow John Stones and Harry Maguire so much time on the ball.
This paid off as in the 57thminute Italy clawed a goal back through debutant Retegui after a clever move in which Lorenzo Pellegrini played a threaded ball between England’s centre-backs unlocking the England defence.
Retegui took his chance from inside the area slotting the ball past Jordan Pickford and into the bottom left corner.
The Italians were buoyed by the goal and kept the pressure on England as they searched for an equaliser. However, despite Italy controlling the possession they didn’t create much in the way of chances.
Luke Shaw was dismissed after two yellow cards in two minutes meaning England had to play the last ten minutes of the game with ten men.
Despite this, Southgate’s side hung on to secure an important three points in Naples and ensuring a winning start to their qualifying campaign for a sixth successive time.
All attention will now turn to Sunday when England are back in action against Ukraine at Wembley.
Italy won’t be too disheartened with this result as England on paper are the strongest side in the group. It will be important for Mancini’s side to get their first win of this qualification campaign when they face Malta in three days’ time.