Italy survived a scare as they came back from a goal down to escape from Tallinn with a 2-1 victory over Estonia in Euro 2012 qualifying Group C on Friday.
Sergei Zenjov had given Estonia a shock first half lead but second half strikes from Antonio Cassano and Leonardo Bonucci, thanks to some poor marking at corners, allowed coach Cesare Prandelli to begin his competitive reign at the Italy helm with a win.
It was Italy’s first win of 2010 and first success in eight matches.
Although his team struggled throughout, Prandelli said he was delighted and that they deserved the three points.
“It was a strong emotion particularly because the players were a bit down in the changing room (at half-time),” he said.
“But then we had a good reaction (in the second period) and we deserved to win.”
The former Fiorentina coach revealed he made some changes at the break to turn things around.
“I told them to keep playing but with more speed because otherwise our play was good.
“I said we could still play our game and win. But they surprised us several times on the counter-attack.”
Italy captain Andrea Pirlo insisted the team would improve.
“We struggled in the beginning because they had a fast striker, they’re a physical team and they made it hard for us but we won because we were superior in every department,” he said.
“In time we’ll have better games and play better football, we need a bit of time because it’s the first time we’ve played together.”
In a much-changed side from that which succumbed so meekly at the World Cup in June, Prandelli’s Italy adventure began in nightmare fashion.
Although Italy had a couple of early half chances, it was Estonia who really threatened first.
Zenjov won a challenge in the air with Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini got caught the wrong side of Konstantin Vassiljev breaking from midfield but the NK Nafta Lendava man volleyed high and wide on 13 minutes.
Italy’s response was immediate with Daniele De Rossi releasing Giampaolo Pazzini with a precise through ball but from the right the Sampdoria forward shot straight at Sergei Pareiko in goal.
Italy were labouring and creating little in terms of clear chances and their lacklustre approach cost them on 31 minutes.
Vassiljev smacked a free-kick from 35 yards that was low, moving in the air and hard but it was straight at Salvatore Sirigu who spilled it and Zenjov reacted quickest to slam home the rebound, with all but Mattia Cassani in the Italy defence ball-watching.
That did at least spark some urgency into Italy’s play and Pazzini cut inside from the left but shot straight at Pareiko, who pushed the ball behind for a corner.
Then Cassano fired just wide after Pareiko had put his team in trouble by spilling the ball.
Any hopes Italy fans had that their team would come out firing in the second period were almost quashed three minutes after the restart as Sander Puri burst onto a loose ball and fired inches over Sirigu’s bar.
However, the game turned on its head in three minutes around the hour mark as Estonia failed to deal with two Pirlo corners.
Cassano was left unmarked to head home the first from 10 yards and from the second the Sampdoria forward went to the near post and flicked the ball between his legs into the box where Bonucci was left free to control and shoot home from three
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