Italy's forward Federico Chiesa (L) fights for the ball with Armenia's defender Kamo Hovhannisyan during the Euro 2020 Group J football qualification match between Armenia and Italy at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican stadium in Yerevan on September 5, 2019. (Photo by Karen MINASYAN / AFP)

YEREVAN, – Andrea Belotti bagged a brace as Italy saw off 10-man Armenia 3-1 to extend their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a fifth straight win on Thursday.

Roberto Mancini’s side had trailed after 11 minutes in Yerevan when Aleksandre Karapetyan got just the second goal past Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Italy goal in five qualifying games.

But the forward, who plays for Russian club Sochi, went from hero to villan when he was sent off for a second yellow card just before the break to leave his side a man down.

Torino captain Belotti got Italy back level on 28 minutes and added a second 10 minutes from time after substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini had put the away side in the lead his first international goal.

“The satisfaction is to have won a game that was not at all easy,” said Mancini, who becomes the first Italy coach to win five consecutive European qualifiers in one group.

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“Playing the 11 against 10 paradoxically penalised us because Armenia focused even more on defending and reduced the spaces further.

“But we had the patience to continue to attack even at the risk of exposing ourselves to counter-attack.”

Four-time world champions Italy have put their failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup behind them and are top of Group J with maximum 15 points, and on course for the Euro 2020 opening match at home in Rome next June.

Armenia are third in the group with six points from five games, behind Finland who have nine points from four games.

Mancini dropped young guns Moise Kean and Nicolo Zaniolo as punishment for being regularly late during the Under-21 European Championships at home in June.

Belotti was joined up front in an attacking trident with Juventus forward Federico Bernardeschi and Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa. (AFP)


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