CESENA, Italy, June 7 – Italy continued their unbeaten start to their UEFA Nations League campaign on Tuesday after beating Hungary 2-1 with an inexperienced side.
First-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Pellegrini at Cesena were enough for the Azzurri to overcome Hungary in a largely impressive display marred by Gianluca Mancini’s own goal.
Roberto Mancini picked a host of players who played little or no role in Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph, whose shine faded after they failed to qualify for the FIFA Cup. this year’s world in Qatar.
Ahead of Tuesday’s League A Group 3 fixture, Italy had won just three of 11 matches since being crowned European champions at Wembley, one of those meaningless victories in Turkey days after being knocked out of the World Cup by North Macedonia.
The punch Italy took at the hands of Argentina in last week’s ‘Finalissima’ in London seemed to confirm a deep crisis.
But a young XI showed signs of life in Saturday’s draw with Germany and they built on that momentum in Cesena, frequently playing with the style and verve that characterized Mancini’s side ahead of the Euros.
Barella opened the scoring in the 30th minute, scoring his eighth Italian goal via two slight deflections after some excellent work down the left from Leonardo Spinazzola.
Pellegrini came close to relying on teenage talent Wilfried Gnonto moments before the break when he raced in behind and fired an inviting pass into the goal which was neatly cut off by Loic Nego.
However, the Roma captain then doubled the hosts’ lead seconds later, making no mistake when meeting the recoil of Matteo Politano to register his second goal in as many appearances for Italy.
Politano smashed a shot from the bar nine minutes after the break and six minutes later Hungary were back in the game when centre-back Mancini, who until then had been one of Italy’s best players, returned substitute Attila Fiola’s low cross under no pressure.
From there, the away team pushed to equalize as the home side were visibly tired, but beyond some speculative effort could not build on their maiden win against England.