The first ever match in the Stade De Lyon sure proved to be a feisty affair as a crowd of almost 59,000 witnessed a resilient Italian side cruising against the much-hyped “golden generation” of Belgium in a fantastic 2-0 victory.
Referred to as the first marquee clash of EURO 2016, the match started on a really bright note as both the teams intended to show plenty of their attacking prowess in the opening minutes in search of an early goal.
Belgium started well with Lukaku looking fired up but the first chance of the game fell to Belgium’s Nainggolan as he forced a save from the veteran Italian keeper, Gianluigi Buffon in the 11th minute with a low drive.
After a steady spell of possession for Belgium and Nainggolan firing wide once again from range, the Italian defense stood strong and a few minutes later, Italy had their first chance as Pelle shot wide in the 31st minute.
And moments later, the game sparked to life in the 32nd minute as Leonardi Bonucci sent a scintillating long ball which was calmly brought down by Gianccherini as he shot it past Courtois coolly from close range to put Italy ahead with a fantastic goal. It was an amazing effort from Bonucci and Gianccherini had executed the shot perfectly.
Italy tried to push for a second as a Candreva strike was tipped by Courtois and a header by Pelle went wide after some scrappy Belgian defending. Belgium tried to capitalize but lacked the final touch, with Italy finishing as the stronger side in the first half.
Italy began the second half with a more promising display as Pelle’s headed effort forced a brilliant one-handed save from Courtois and in return, Romelo Lukaku missed a sure-shot goal from close range, which was arguably Belgium’s best chance till then.
Belgium continued to push forward in dangerous positions for an equalizer via the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Origi (who replaced Lukaku) but to no avail as they lacked the final ball to get things going.
Plenty of crosses were floated in for Belgium and the only decent efforts came from Origi, who shot his header wide and missed another headed effort and in turn, Immobile sent a ferocious shot at the goal, only to be saved by Courtois.
All hopes for Belgium to make a dramatic comeback in injury time were put to a halt with Candreva picking out Pelle via a cheeky pass and the latter sending it right into the goal with a thumping volley from close range to make it 2-0 for the previous EURO edition’s finalists, which turned out to be the last strike of the game.
The match lived up to the hype, with a defensively organized Italian side showing a promising attacking display as the individual superstars of Belgium failed to capitalize on all the chances created.
Italy started their EURO campaign with a commanding win, which may just be what they need to push on to go all the way and win the Henry Delaunay trophy.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.