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World Cup qualifying: Italy 3 Denmark 1

Italy strengthened their grip on top spot in Group B by making light of the dismissal of Pablo Osvaldo at San Siro on Tuesday.

Having withstood intense early pressure, Italy stunned their visitors with two goals in four minutes through Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi to be in a commanding position with half time looming.

However, William Kvist reduced the home side’s advantage with a volley before Osvaldo gave the Danes further grounds for optimism by getting himself dismissed early in the second half.

Mario Balotelli came to the Italy’s aid, though, converting a terrific pass from the equally influential Andrea Pirlo to clinch a win that saw the Euro 2012 runners-up make it 10 points from a possible 12 so far in Group B.

The hosts were shaky at the back inside the opening quarter.

However, it was more down to the fact that the Danish midfield overran their Azzurri counterparts early on, thus allowing them to fully exploit Andrea Barzagli’s total inability to deal with Nicklas Bendtner in the air.

Indeed, the on-loan Juventus man really should have done better after being picked out by the marauding Lars Jacobsen inside the opening three minutes.

Christian Eriksen then stung the palms of Morgan De Sanctis with a terrific drive from distance as the visitors continued to dominate.

Italy gradually gained a foothold in the game and were desperately unfortunate not to open the scoring 18 minutes in, when Claudio Marchisio unleashed a sublime curling effort from the edge of the area that seemed destined for the top corner until Simon Kjaer popped up to block on the line.

Moments later, though, De Sanctis came to the Azzurri’s rescue again, somehow managing to keep out a low drive from Kvist with his knees.

Italy broke the deadlock with their next attack, Montolivo arrowing a ball into the bottom corner of the Danish net after latching onto a sublime lay-off from Balotelli.

Denmark were still coming to terms with that setback when Italy struck again, Pirlo outfoxing Michael Silberbaeur on the right before crossing for De Rossi to head home.

The visitors were well and truly reeling now but they deservedly dragged themselves back into contention on the stroke of half time when the impressive Kvist guided a side-footed volley from a deflected Jacobsen cross past De Sanctis.

The Danes then sensed a famous win on Italian soil when Osvaldo stupidly got himself sent off for lashing out at Nicolai Stokholm less than 40 seconds after the interval.

However, the loss of a man actually seemed to galvanise Italy, and Balotelli in particular.

Indeed, the enigmatic forward played the lone forward role to great effect and got his just rewards for doing so when Pirlo picked out his well-timed run in behind the Denmark defence with a typically measured pass, allowing Balotelli to deftly flick the ball past Stephan Andersen.

Tue 16 October, 2012
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