Italy 2-0 Northern Ireland: Ian Baraclough’s side succumbed to an almost inevitable defeat

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Italy 2-0 Northern Ireland: Tough night for Burnley goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell as he concedes both goals on his front post with Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile on target

  • Northern Ireland got off to a rocky start to their World Cup qualifying run
  • Domenico Berardi opened the score with a beautiful finish on the front post
  • However, it was Ciro Immobile who closed the match with their second
  • Peacock Farrell has come under fire for being hit on the first post twice

Northern Ireland was reminded how difficult their quest in Qatar will be as the road to Italy’s World Cup redemption started routinely.

Ian Baraclough’s side performed admirably to avoid the predicted pummeling in Parma against a team that has never lost a World Cup qualifier on home soil.

But the visitors were punished for a poor first half when relentless forwards Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile led de Azzurri to an almost inevitable victory in Group C.

Northern Ireland was reminded of how tough their search for Qatar will be during the match in Italy

Northern Ireland was reminded of how tough their search for Qatar will be during the match in Italy

Ian Baraclough's side succumbed to an almost inevitable defeat in their Group C opener

Ian Baraclough's side succumbed to an almost inevitable defeat in their Group C opener

Ian Baraclough’s side succumbed to an almost inevitable defeat in their Group C opener

Northern Ireland lost its first World Cup qualifier 2-0 to Italy on Thursday

Northern Ireland lost its first World Cup qualifier 2-0 to Italy on Thursday

Northern Ireland lost its first World Cup qualifier 2-0 to Italy on Thursday

Northern Ireland, which has yet to win a game in nine games in nine games under boss Baraclough, will host on Wednesday at Windsor Park Bulgaria in their next Qatar 2022 qualifier after a friendly against the US.

And that’s the kind of clash they need to win to have any hope of matching their efforts from the last two campaigns as they hit the playoffs, with group rival Switzerland defeating the Bulgarians on Thursday night.

Baraclough admitted: “We were too passive in the first half. We didn’t start with the intensity we talked about before the game.

‘But the second half was a completely different match. We have pushed, made mistakes and created opportunities. We just had to be ruthless in those situations.

Maybe it’s an opportunity past, but these aren’t the games we’ll be judged on. We need to take that second half intensity into our next qualifiers. ‘

Italy has a point to prove that in this campaign Russia 2018 has not been reached – the first time they have not made it to the World Cup final in 60 years.

Domenico Berardi (above) opened the scoring in the 14th minute of the game

Domenico Berardi (above) opened the scoring in the 14th minute of the game

Domenico Berardi (above) opened the scoring in the 14th minute of the game

Berardi defeated Burnley goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his front post to put Italy in the lead

Berardi defeated Burnley goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his front post to put Italy in the lead

Berardi defeated Burnley goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his front post to put Italy in the lead

MATCH FACTS

ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma 7.5; Florenzi 6.5, Bonucci 6.5, Chiellini 7, Emerson 6.5 (Spinazzola 75, 6); Pellegrini 5.5 (Stretcher 64min, 6), Locatelli 6 (Pessina 84), Verratti 6; BERARDI 8 (Chiesa 75, 6.5), Building 7.5, Insignia 7.5 (Grifo 84).

Subs not used: Sirigu, Di Lorenzo, Belotti, Cragno, Acerbi, Bernardeschi, Mancini.

Scorers: Berardi 14, building 38.

Manager: Roberto Mancini 7.

Northern Ireland (5-3-2): Peacock-Farrell 5; Smith 7, Cathcart 6, J Evans 6, McNair 6, Dallas 6.5; C Evans 5 (Saville 45min, 6), Davis 6.5, McCann 6 (Thompson 78); Whyte 7 (Lavery 64,6), Magennis 6.5 (Lafferty 78).

Subs not used: Hazard, Hughes, McLaughlin, Kennedy, Ballard, McGinn, Ferguson, Brown.

Booked: Saville, Thompson.

Manager: Ian Baraclough 6.5.

Referee: Ali Palabiyik (Turkey) 6.

Gian Piero Ventura was sacked after their shocking play-off defeat to Sweden four years ago, but Roberto Mancini has once again made the Azzurri a force to be reckoned with by qualifying for Euro 2020 with a record 100 percent – and their unbeaten record expanding to 23 games on Thursday night.

That’s their formidable form under the ex-Manchester City boss, this always promised to be a tough night for Baraclough and skipper Steven Davis, who tied Peter Shilton’s British record of 125 caps.

Fans back in Belfast will certainly have feared the worst as Italy took the lead after just 14 minutes.

Alessandro Florenzi played Berardi through the right side and the mercurial Sassuolo forward took one touch before clinically lifting Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle.

The talented but temperamental Berardi put up almost a second when he bowed a ball for Immobile, whose volley was well saved by Peacock-Farrell.

But the Northern Ireland goalkeeper had made a mistake when Italy doubled his lead seven minutes before half-time, sending Immobile’s shot from the left side of the box to his front post.

It was a serious mistake on the part of the Burnley goalkeeper, whose only league game in two years gave him five at Manchester City.

Still, Northern Ireland should have pulled one back in the second half when Gavin Whyte clung to Manuel Locatelli’s underpowered backpass.

But Gianluigi Donnarumma reached out to save from point blank range before blocking Michael Smith’s volley as well.

And Italy’s stop was not to be broken when Paddy McNair shot over Northern Ireland’s best and last chance at death.

Ciro Immobile added a second in the 38th minute as Italy took a comfortable victory

Ciro Immobile added a second in the 38th minute as Italy took a comfortable victory

Ciro Immobile added a second in the 38th minute as Italy took a comfortable victory

Immobile celebrates the scoring of Italy's second goal in the first half of the qualifier

Immobile celebrates the scoring of Italy's second goal in the first half of the qualifier

Immobile celebrates the scoring of Italy’s second goal in the first half of the qualifier

Goalkeeper Peacock-Farrell (above) was beaten twice at the near post on Thursday evening

Goalkeeper Peacock-Farrell (above) was beaten twice at the near post on Thursday evening

Goalkeeper Peacock-Farrell (above) was beaten twice at the near post on Thursday evening

Northern Ireland's Michael Smith ruined a missed opportunity during the Group C match in Parma

Northern Ireland's Michael Smith ruined a missed opportunity during the Group C match in Parma

Northern Ireland’s Michael Smith ruined a missed opportunity during the Group C match in Parma

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