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Italy 1-3 France: Les Bleus ruin Ventura’s Azzurri bow

Giampiero Ventura suffered defeat in his first game in charge of Italy as his side slipped to a 3-1 loss at the hands of France in an international friendly on Thursday.

The Azzurri fell behind to an Anthony Martial strike in the first half but replied four minutes later through Graziano Pelle.

However, France restored their lead moments later when Arsenal marksman Olivier Giroud found the back of the net in Bari.

And Italy, who handed a senior debut to 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma, were unable to rally under new boss Ventura as Layvin Kurzawa wrapped up a morale-boosting win for France on the 81st minute.

Pelle volleyed wide from Antonio Candreva’s corner inside the opening two minutes as Italy made the brighter start, but France weathered the early spell of pressure and began to probe for an opening.

Ventura, who replaced Antonio Conte as Italy boss after Euro 2016, lined his side up with Fiorentina’s Davide Astori in a back three that was missing Leonardo Bonucci due to the Juventus player’s family commitments, and a mistake from Andrea Barzagli allowed Martial to score easily after 17 minutes.

Paul Pogba tried an ambitious pass down the right that Barzagli should have dealt with easily, but the Juventus defender misjudged it and allowed Martial to race clear and slide a low, side-footed finish under Buffon and into the net.

France were ahead for less than five minutes, however, as Eder outpaced Kurzawa down the right and crossed to Pelle, who took a touch to control the ball before spinning past Raphael Varane and firing beyond Steve Mandanda with brilliant skill.

But France exposed Italy’s defensive frailties again just before the half-hour mark when the home side failed to clear Antoine Griezmann’s corner and Kurzawa headed the ball down into the path of Giroud, who volleyed the ball into the corner of the net before his markers could react.

Second-half substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac flashed a shot just wide when Djibril Sidibe’s pass found him in yards of space on the edge of the box, before Riccardo Montolivo drew a good save from Mandanda at the other end with a swerving 30-yard drive.

Stadio San Nicola saw a piece of history when Donnarumma replaced the country’s most-capped player, Gianluigi Buffon, and became the youngest goalkeeper to represent the national team, but the rookie was at fault when Kurzawa beat him at his near post to make it 3-1.

The Milan shot-stopper was alert to block Kurzawa’s 77th minute cross with Gignac waiting to pounce, but he guessed wrong when the Paris Saint-Germain full-back got a second chance, diving away from his goal as the ball flashed between him and the post.

It was a harsh lesson for the inexperienced goalkeeper, but he spared himself further blushes when he made a good save from Pogba’s awkwardly bouncing 25-yard free-kick.

France’s victory extended their fine record on Italian soil ahead of facing Belarus next Tuesday, whereas Italy will look to bounce back when they face Israel on Monday as both sides get their World Cup qualifying campaigns up and running.

Thu 1 Sep, 2016
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