Thursday, March 21, 2019 | ePaper
Italy leaves it late to earn 1st competitive win in a year
AP, Rome :
Italy's Federico Chiesa (right) makes an attempt to score during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Poland and Italy at the Silesian Stadium Chorzow, Poland on Sunday.
Italy is finally showing signs of emerging from its crisis, nearly a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Cristiano Biraghi's goal in stoppage time earned the Azzurri a much-needed 1-0 win in Poland on Sunday in the UEFA Nations League.
Playing in Group 3 of League A, Poland became the first team to be relegated in the new European competition.
Italy also hit the crossbar twice in the first half, first with Jorginho then with Lorenzo Insigne.
Still, the match appeared headed for a scoreless draw until Biraghi slid in to redirect a corner inside the far post two minutes into injury time.
"We dominated the game completely and should have scored earlier," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. "A 0-0 would have been an unfair result. We played very well but we can still improve a lot. In football you only need time and hard work; magicians do not exist."
It was the first national team goal for Biraghi, a full back at Fiorentina.
Biraghi celebrated by making a No. 13 with his fingers, a dedication to former Fiorentina captain and Italy defender Davide Astori, who died from cardiac arrest in March.
Astori wore the No. 13 shirt.
"Astori is a part of me," Biraghi said. "I dedicate my goal to him because if I'm here it is only thanks to him and all the things he taught me when we played together."
It was Italy's first competitive victory in more than a year, since beating Albania 1-0 in World Cup qualifying last October.
It also ended a five-match winless streak in all competitions and gave Italy a slim chance to catch group leader Portugal.
Portugal leads with six points, two ahead of Italy, while Poland is last with one.
Italy hosts Portugal in its next and final match but then Portugal has another game at home against Poland.