Immobile brings Italy back from brink against Macedonia

Sun Oct 9, 2016 5:24pm EDT
 
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SKOPJE (Reuters) - Italy's Ciro Immobile scored twice in the last 15 minutes to earn a 3-2 win in Macedonia in Sunday's World Cup qualifier after the four-times champions appeared on the brink of a humiliating defeat.

Macedonia led 2-1 after Ilija Nestorovski and Ferhan Hasani scored in a three-minute second-half spell and threatening a third goal when Immobile struck the equalizer in the 75th minute.

The 26-year-old then headed the winner in the second minute of stoppage time as Giampiero Ventura's team breathed a huge sigh of relief, although critics will still want to know why they struggled for long periods.

Andrea Belotti had given Italy a first-half lead with his first international goal but, even at that point, Italy looked wobbly.

Italy, second on goal difference behind Spain in Group G with seven points from three games, extended their 10-year unbeaten record in European and World Cup qualifiers to 53 matches.

Hapless Macedonia were left still without a point.

"These things happen when you have so many young players on the pitch, but I am still convinced about their quality," said Ventura.

"We showed great character to turn the game around."

Italy made five changes from the team which drew 1-1 with Spain on Thursday with Marco Verratti brought in to pull the strings in midfield.   Continued...