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Bulgaria v Italy Live Commentary, 29/03/21

0 - 2
A. Belotti (43 pen)
M. Locatelli (82)
Stadion Vasil Levski


That is all from this game, until next time!
Mancini's men will be looking to make it three wins in three this international break as they travel to Lithuania on Wednesday. In contrast, Bulgaria will be desperate for a result away to Northern Ireland, given they have lost their first two fixtures of this qualifying campaign to Switzerland and Italy.
Italy stretch their unbeaten run to 24 games as they defeat Bulgaria 2-0, making it back-to-back victories in the World Cup qualifying Group C. Belotti's first-half penalty had put the visitors a goal to the good at half-time before Locatelli's second-half placed finish secured the three points. The hosts rarely tested Donnarumma so can have no complaints, however, they will be frustrated with the penalty decision after Sensi's apparent handball in the second half.
90' + 3' Bernardeschi has a shot of his own on this occasion, drilling a left-footed attempt at the Bulgarian goal from 30 yards out and it gets deflected behind for another Italy corner.
90' + 2' CLOSE! Immobile is desperate to get in on the act as he drives a right-footed strike towards the top left corner after a pass through from Locatelli. Iliev, however, is once again there to parry Immobile's long-range effort over the bar and keeps the score at 2-0 to the visitors.
90' + 1' Bernardeschi whips in the corner and Di Lorenzo sees his headed effort deflected behind for another corner as the fourth official indicates there will be four minutes of added time.
90' Spinazzola races down the left-hand channel, travelling half the pitch in possession before knocking it back off Antov to win a corner as Italy head towards back-to-back Group C victories.
F. Bernardeschi
Yellow Card
89' Bernardeschi goes in late on Tsvetanov near the left-hand touchline and he joins team-mate Locatelli in the referee's book.
M. Raynov
P. Vitanov
88' Raynov also comes on for Vitanov in the middle of the park.
M. Pessina
M. Verratti
88' Verratti, who has dictated the proceedings in this game, makes way for Pessina in the final moments of this game.
87' CHANCE! Bernardeschi agains plays Immoblie through and the forward has just Iliev to beat in the Bulgarian goal as he races through one-on-one. Immobile, however, manages to drive his right-footed effort into the feet of the goalkeeper before the rebound cannons away from danger.
86' Locatelli's finish has took the wind out of the hosts' sails and they now cut disappointed figures out in the middle. They had started to build some pressure on the away side, despite rarely troubling Donnarumma, but the substitute's goal has finished this game off for Mancini's men.
85' SAVE! Bernardeschi gets the chance to run at Tsvetanov and the substitute does so, driving down the right-hand channel before cutting back to the edge of the area. Immobile awaits the pass back, shooting with his right foot but his strike his tame and Iliev saves with relative ease in the Bulgarian goal.
M. Locatelli
Yellow Card
83' Moments after scoring, Locatelli becomes the first Italian name in the referee's book for an aerial challenge on Galabinov.
L. Insigne
82' Verratti shows great feet to make it into the area before finding Insigne, who offloads to Locatelli and the midfielder extends the Italian's lead with a superb, whipped strike into the bottom right corner.
M. Locatelli
82' GOOOALLLLL!!! 2-0 ITALY! Locatelli doubles the visitors’ lead with an excellent, curling right-footed finish into the bottom right corner from the left of goal. Initially, Insigne had played a simple pass back towards Locatelli before the midfielder did the rest with a perfect finish into the far corner.
81' Tsvetanov's cross towards the back post finds Spinazzola instead of the intended target of Karagaren. The hosts then undo any pressure they had started to build as Galabinov needlessly fouls Di Lorenzo in an aerial duel to offer the visitors some well-deserved respite.
81' Following their win over Northern Ireland, Mancini’s side are now unbeaten in their last 23 matches (W18 D5) – a run that dates back to September 2018. They look set to make it 24 matches without a loss if they can hold out against Bulgaria.
79' Vitanov, who looked like he may struggle to carry on, manages to get back on the pitch and it looks like he will see out the rest of this fixture.
A. Iliev
S. Delev
78' Petrov uses the stoppage to make another change, bringing on Atanas Iliev for Delev.
77' The away side exchange some intricate passing play outside Bulgaria's area but eventually they are forced to play backwards before Bonucci looks aimlessly long. Vitanov then goes down clutching his hamstring and the physios are required to come on.
F. Bernardeschi
F. Chiesa
76' After making it six games without a goal or assist for his country, Chiesa makes way for Bernardeschi.
C. Immobile
A. Belotti
75' Belotti, who scored the only goal of this game so far, comes off for Immobile.
74' Karagaren drills a low pass towards the near post but Galabinov's first touch lets him down and Bonucci manages to poke clear. Meanwhile, on the touchline, it looks like Mancini is preparing some more changes to see out this game.
72' POST! The visitors play a quick free-kick over the top as Verratti chips over the head of Antov. Belotti sprints onto the throughball and, with Iliev rushing off his line, the forward attempts to dink it over the goalkeeper. Belotti does the hard part, lifting it over Iliev but his right-footed effort then cannons into the right-hand post and away from danger.
70' Karagaren races down the right-hand channel, standing up a cross for Delev at the far post. Donnarumma, however, comes out with real authority to claim the loose ball high above Bonucci's head inside the area.
69' After a spell of Bulgaria pressure, Italy have regained control of this game and are heading towards another three points in Group C as things stand. They continue to dominate possession but Mancini and his coaching staff will want another goal to be sure of the win here.
M. Locatelli
S. Sensi
68' At the same time as Di Lorenzo's introduction, Locatelli is also brough on for Sensi in midfield.
G. Di Lorenzo
A. Florenzi
68' Mancini makes a double change, the first of which sees Di Lorenzo come on for Florenzi at right-back.
67' Italy have managed to keep a clean sheet in seven of their last matches, not conceding in their previous four consecutive games
66' For the time being, Belotti returns to the pitch and seems to be moving about fine. If needed, Mancini may call upon the likes of Immobile, who scored in midweek, off the bench.
65' Belotti is down clutching his ankle and the game stops to allow the forward some medical attention. Belotti appeared to be struggling after Antov's slide tackle and it looks like Mancini may need to make a change.
64' Chiesa looks to play a pass back to Belotti and Antov lunges in with a sliding tackle. The visitors appeal for a penalty but the referee feels the centre-back has got enough of the ball and allows play to continue.
K. Malinov
G. Kostadinov
62' Malinov replaces Kostadinov, who was booked for his second-half protests over the penalty, in the middle of the park.
62' Chiesa cuts one way then the other on the edge of the home side's area, however, his left-footed strike is weak and trickles through easily to the hands of Iliev. This fixture is quickly opening up into a more end-to-end affair as the Bulgarians chase an equaliser.
61' Bulgaria are continuing to grow into this game and they are enjoying significant success down the flanks. Tsvetanov looks to cross for Galabinov at the near post but the visitors just about manages to clear their lines.
V. Bozhikov
Yellow Card
59' Three bookings in a row come for the home side as Bozhikov joins Kostadinov and Vutov in Vincic's book. The centre-back was deemed to have handled the ball in the middle before needlessly throwing it away over the heads of the Italians.
A. Vutov
Yellow Card
58' Vutov, who is on the bench, also receives a booking at the same time for dissent after the failure to award a penalty.
G. Kostadinov
Yellow Card
57' Kostadinov becomes the first name in Vincic's book for his excessive protests with the referee about the penalty decision.
56' Delev advances down the right flank, cutting back for Kostadinov in the area. The midfielder lets the ball run past him, allowing Galabinov to unleash a shot but Sensi is there to block away. The hosts feel the Italian midfielder has handled the ball when blocking but the referee disagrees and allows play to go on.
55' Chiesa works some room to cross in the right-hand channel but Antov climbs the highest to head clear. Verratti is there, as always, to regain possession in the middle of the park as the Italian continues to dictate proceedings here.
54' Prior to this game, Mancini has won 16 of his 25 games in charge - with the Azzurri scoring 56 goals and conceding just 14 during that time.
52' Galabinov closes in on Tsvetanov's deep cross but he is never beating Donnarumma in the air as the goalkeeper rushes off his line to command his area. While the home side have barely tested the Italian in net, they are slowly growing into this game in the second half.
51' Acerbi slams into the back of Galabinov with a needless arm and the referee has no choice but to award a free-kick. Multiple Bulgaria defenders make their way up for the delivery but Bonucci leads the line to head clear.
50' CLOSE! Florenzi drills a cross at Bozhikov and Italy win the first corner of the half. Sensi whips in the set-piece towards the near post and Acerbi loops a header towards goal. Iliev watches it all the way, however, and the ball falls just over the bar and goes out for a goal-kick.
48' Spinazzola takes up his usual advanced position on the left-hand side but on this occasion he fails to beat Karagaren. Barella then has words with the referee as he complains about an earlier Karagaren tackle in the middle of the park.
47' Acerbi nearly causes a problem for his side as he plays a weak pass backwards towards Donnarumma but the goalkeeper is quickly off his line to launch a clearance long.
46' The players have returned after the half-time interval and the second half gets underway!
B. Karagaren
46' A change at the break for the home side sees Karagaren replace Cicinho.
Mancini will simply be asking for more of the same from his men, who have kept possession effectively, while looking a little impotent up top. He could look to the likes of Immobile or Bernardeschi off the bench for some extra attacking impetus in the second half. Petrov is likely to be happy with his team's defensive effort, however, they now face the thankless task of trying to breach the Italy defence twice in the next 45 minutes.
Italy go in 1-0 up at half-time, courtesy of Belotti's penalty which he won and converted himself. Bulgaria may have some complaints with the initial penalty decision, given the nature in which Belotti went down under the pressure of Dimoz. Nevertheless, the hosts have sat deep and invited Mancini's men onto them, which is why Donnarumma has rarely been tested and the visitors wander down the tunnel leading at the break.
45' Chiesa leads the visitors' counter-attacking charge but, perhaps aware of the half-time whistle coming soon, sensibly opts to play backwards and retain possession. The fourth official then indicates there will be just the one minute of added time.
A. Belotti
Penalty Goal
43' GOOOALLLLLLL!!! 1-0 ITALY! Belotti runs up to the penalty, smashing his right-footed strike into the bottom left corner. Iliev dives the right way but he can’t get a hand to it and Mancini’s men head towards half-time a goal to the good. Dimoz and Bulgaria's complaints are still going on but Belotti will not mind as he wins the penalty and then converts it.
42' PENALTY TO ITALY! The visitors play a wide set-piece quickly towards Belotti at the near post and the forward, in pursuit of Insigne's pass, goes down under the pressure of Dimoz. The referee shows no hesitation, pointing to the spot to award Italy a penalty for Dimoz's tangle of legs with Belotti inside the area.
40' Chiesa and Barella try to carve out an opening on the right, with the former's cross being headed away at the near post. Verratti then attempts to seek out Belotti at the far post and Bozhikov heads behind for a corner to the visitors.
39' Verratti and Belotti are the next Italy men to be frustrated with referee Vincic. The pair feel they have won a corner in the left-hand channel but the referee once again opts to go with the home side's appeals instead. Mancini's tempers are also building on the touchline as his side become increasingly annoyed with the officials.
38' In his 22 appearances for Italy, Chiesa has managed just the solitary goal which came against Armenia back in 2019. Since then, he has gone five games without scoring or assisting a goal.
37' Chiesa throws his arms in the air, gesturing to the referee that he feels Bozhikov has handled a pass inside the area. Vincic, however, disagrees and allows play to go on as Iliev sends a kick out of his hands long towards Delev.
35' Florenzi has two attempts at finding Belotti but on both occasions Tsvetanov intervenes. The left-back then invites Barella to foul him and the Italian duly obliges. Petrov will be happy with his side's defensive efforts so far and the visitors are starting to appear a little frustrated.
33' Spinazzola races around Insigne before beating Cicinho with ease. The left-back manages to drill a cross back from the byline towards the penalty spot, where Insigne sees his right-footed effort blocked by Chochev before it can trouble Iliev.
32' Kostadinov feels the pressure of Verratti breathing down his neck and plays a careless pass out of touch. Bonucci then goes long in search of Chiesa but he is deemed to have fouled Tsvetanov near Bulgaria's goal and the home side get a free-kick.
31' Delev takes matters into his own hands, driving down the right and looking to stand up a cross towards the back post. Verratti sees the forward's intentions all the way, sheltering the ball out of play for a goal-kick to the hosts, which Donnarumma will play short as Italy look to build from the back.
29' Sensi hacks at the heels of Vitanov and he is perhaps lucky to escape the first booking of the game. Barella then ends up on the floor in the right-hand channel, courtesy of Tsvetanov's foul, and he is going to require some medical attention on the touchline.
27' The hosts enjoy a spell of prolonged possession, with the centre-backs seeking out the wing-backs on either touchline with diagonal passes. The move, however, breaks down as Cicinho needlessly fouls Acerbi inside Italy's area.
26' Insigne cuts a frustrated figure as he fails to connect with a long pass over the top. The margin of error on the pass over Bulgaria's defence is so small, given how deep Petrov's men are sitting in their own half. Italy have dominated the opening stages but, for now, have nothing to show for their hard work.
25' Dimov and Belotti clash in the air and the Italian forward goes down holding his shoulder. After a brief pause, however, Belotti gets up and Verratti plays the resulting free-kick backwards.
24' Italy and Bulgaria have clashed 19 times with the former picking up 10 wins and the latter just 2 (D7). The Azzurri haven’t lost a game to Bulgaria since 1991, going on an eight-game unbeaten run.
23' Chochev and Tsvetanoc enjoy a rare venture forward down the left-hand channel but their progress is stopped by Florenzi. Insigne then breaks down the other end, cutting in on his right foot before seeing his strike blocked by Antov in front of Iliev's goal.
21' Spinazzola again causes problems on the left-hand side and on this occasion it is Dimov who turns behind for a corner. Insigne sends in the set-piece and Belotti carelessly fouls inside the six-yard area to relieve the pressure on the hosts.
20' Barella finds a pocket of space in the right-hand channel and he crosses from deep towards the far post. The midfielder's ball in misses Belotti and Chiesa, instead finding Insigne, who fails to create a significant chance at the back post.
19' Acerbi drags on the shirt of Galabinov and concedes a needless free-kick inside the hosts' half. Unsurprisingly, the home side attempt to go long and Florenzi easily recollects possession for Mancini's team.
18' Petrov's men are camped deep inside their own half, happy to watch Italy dictate play in front of them. The problem is, when they do win the ball, they have nowhere to go with it. Chochev proves this, as he works hard to win possession in midfield, however, there is then no team-mate to pass to in front of him and the visitors regain possession.
16' WIDE! Verratti attempts a similar pass to Chiesa as he tried earlier and this time he finds the Juventus forward to the right of goal. Drifting in behind Tsvetanov, Chiesa just has to beat Iliev but he misdirects his right-footed volley and the chance goes wide of the left-hand post. The warning signs are there for Bulgaria and they need to get nearer to Verratti to stop him playing.
15' Verratti and Spinazzola once again combine with the former falling to the floor inside the area. As was the case with the Chiesa challenge, the referee insists play goes on and Cicinho runs away with it down the right-hand side.
14' Galabinov clatters into Bonucci in the air but the centre-back shows all of his experience to nudge the forward out the way before playing back to Donnarumma. Mancini's side then earn a free-kick on the left, 40 yards from goal, which they will take short.
13' All of the away side's attacking play has come down the left-hand channel so far. Spinazzola is repeatedly pushing high up and exploiting the space in behind Cicinho to cross into the area. As of yet, however, the scores remain level and by this point last game, Bulgaria were 3-0 down to Switzerland.
11' Petrov's men have not qualified for the World Cup final stages since 1998 - four years after they finished fourth at USA 1994.
10' Verratti comes deep in an attempt to act as a playmaker, arrowing a pass out to Chiesa on the right of Bulgaria's area. The Italian's pass, however, is far too ambitious and races out of play for a goal-kick to the hosts.
9' OVER! Bonucci picks out Spinazzola on the left-hand side and the full-back reaches the byline before whipping a cross across the face of goal. Belotti manages to get in between the two Bulgaria defenders but the forward can only smash his close-range effort over the bar.
8' Insigne stands over the set-piece with Sensi and it is the latter who will take it. When the midfielder does take the free-kick, he goes short to Verratti and the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder fails to find a team-mate inside the box.
7' Italy appeal for a penalty after Chiesa is hacked down by a slide tackle in the area by Bozhikov, however, the referee disagrees and awards the visitors a corner instead. Insigne goes short from the corner and win a free-kick, just outside the area to the left-hand side.
6' Another corner comes for the away side and Insigne swings it in. This time, however, Bulgaria stand firm to head clear before referee Vincic awards Petrov's side a cheap free-kick in the middle of the park.
5' The first corner of the game comes as Spinazzola drives down the left-hand side, reaching the byline before seeing his attempts to pass blocked behind. The resulting corner falls to Acerbi but he can't poke a shot towards goal at the back post.
4' Chochev goes roaming in the left-hand channel but his crossing attempts get blocked by the leg of Florenzi. The visitors then appear trapped in their own half, however, they manage to play out from the back confidently, despite significant pressure from the hosts.
2' Donnarumma takes charge in the early stages as he races out to hook away Florenzi's weak pass backwards before the likes of Galabinov or Delev can pounce inside the area.
1' Referee Slavko Vincic blows his whistle to get the game underway!
The players are wandering onto the Vasil Levski National Stadium pitch and shortly it will be time for kick-off.
Bulgaria have struggled in recent years and have won just two of their last 23 matches, the most recent of which was a 3-0 friendly win over Gibraltar last November.
Yasen Petrov also makes six changes from their disappointing defeat against Switzerland. As the hosts switch to a five-man midfield instead of a 3-4-3 formation, the attacking trio of Yomov, Dimitar Iliev and Kiril Despodov all miss out. Replacing them up top are Galabinov and Delev, while Tsvetanov comes in at left wing-back.
Roberto Mancini opts for six changes from the win over Northern Ireland. At the back, Acerbi and Spinazzola come in to join Florenzi and Bonucci. In midfield, Verratti starts again but he will be joined by Sensi and Barella instead of Pelligrini and Locatelli. Further forward, scorers against Northern Ireland, Berardi and Immobile, drop out for Chiesa and Belotti.
SUBS: Gianluca Mancini, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Emerson, Vincenzo Grifo, Salvatore Sirigu, Ciro Immobile, Alessandro Bastoni, Manuel Locatelli, Matteo Pessina, Lorenzo Pelligrini, Alex Meret, Federico Bernardeschi.
ITALY (4-3-3): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Bonucci, Leonardo Spinazzola, Francesco Acerbi; Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti; Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa, Andrea Belotti.
SUBS: Birsent Karagaren, Petko Hristov, Martin Raynov, Atanas Iliev, Kristiyan Malinov, Daniel Naumov, Antonio Vutov, Ivan Karadzhov, Ilian Ilianov Iliev, Dimitar Iliev, Petar Zanev, Georgi Yomov.
BULGARIA (3-5-2): Plamen Iliev; Daniel Dimov, Vasil Bozhikov, Valentin Ivaylov Antov; Cicinho, Ivaylo Chochev, Georgi Kostadinov, Petar Vitanov, Momchil Tsvetanov; Andrej Galabinov, Spas Delev.
These two teams got off to contrasting starts in Group C. The visitors cruised past Northern Ireland with a 2-0 win, courtesy of first-half goals from Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile. The hosts, however, conceded a three-goal deficit within 13 minutes and eventually ran out 3-1 losers to Switzerland.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the World Cup qualifying Group C fixture between Bulgaria and Italy.