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November 20, 2019

Italy crush Armenia, Denmark thwart Ireland again


November 20, 2019

PALERMO, Italy: Ciro Immobile and Nicolo Zaniolo scored a brace each as Italy wrapped up their perfect Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a crushing 9-1 win over Armenia in Palermo on Monday.

Already-qualified Italy registered an 11th straight win under coach Roberto Mancini, as the four-time world champions showed they were back on track after failing to qualify for last year’s World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Immobile, 29, started the goal-spree on eight minutes in Sicily, adding a second in the 33rd minute.

Roma midfielder Zaniolo, 20, scored his first goal for the national side on nine minutes, completing a brace on 64 minutes.

Nicolo Barella, 22, also scored in the first half on front of a crowd of nearly 28,000 on the Mediterranean island.

Alessio Romagnoli, Jorginho’s 75th-minute penalty, and goals from Riccardo Orsolini and Federico Chiesa concluded the hammering.

Edgar Babayan pulled a goal back for Armenia 10 minutes from time in a rout which could have been heavier with the Azzurri rattling the woodwork on multiple occasions.

Meanwhile, Spain finished their qualifying campaign with a bang as they thrashed Romania 5-0 to secure a top seeding in the draw for the finals.

With automatic qualification sealed and first place guaranteed after their 7-0 demolition of Malta on Saturday, Spain indulged in another goal-fest at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno scored twice.

Fabian Ruiz of Napoli came into central midfield.

He, as well as Santi Cazorla and Gerard, perhaps furthered their claims the most.

The assault started early. Jose Gaya had a header ruled out for offside in the third minute.

Then after a brilliant Cazorla dummy, Gaya created the opener as he nutmegged Romario Benzar and Fabian applied a smart finish from close range.

Kepa had to push away a George Puscas shot after some sloppy defending from Ramos and Inigo before Dani Carvajal was lucky not to concede a penalty for kicking through the back of Florinel Coman.

But Spain put the game to bed with three goals in 12 minutes.Gerard headed in Cazorla’s whipped cross and then poked home Gaya’s delivery after Romania failed to clear.

Then Alvaro Morata might have scored had Adrian Rus not turned in Gerard’s cutback for an own-goal.Spain had chances to add a fifth in the second half, but had to wait until the 91st minute when Mikel Oyarzabal, on as a substitute, twisted and drove into the corner.

In Dublin, Ireland missed out on automatic qualification as a 1-1 draw with Denmark secured the visitors’ place at next summer’s showpiece.

Switzerland also booked their place at Euro 2020 with a 6-1 win over Gibraltar to claim top spot in Group A.

The hosts were seeking revenge for the 5-1 thrashing that sent Denmark to the 2018 World Cup.

The hosts looked the most likely to make the breakthrough in a first half of few clear chances.Conor Hourihane had the best of them but fired too close to Kasper Schmeichel from a narrow angle as he insisted on taking the shot with his stronger left foot.Christian Eriksen was the major difference between the sides in the Danes’ 5-1 victory in the Irish capital two years ago with a hat-trick.

But the Tottenham midfielder’s struggles for form at club level had been replicated for his country this season and the visitors struggled to get their star man into the game.

Yet, even with Eriksen stifled, Denmark produced the moment of quality they needed 17 minutes from time when Henrik Dalsgaard’s cross was met on the stretch by Braithwaite.

Irish hopes of avoiding the playoffs seemed to be gone, but Doherty’s towering header at the back post from Enda Stevens’s cross set up a grandstand finish.

The Denmark box was then bombarded with crosses with Irish captain Shane Duffy thrown forward from centre-back, but there was to be no dramatic late winner.