Italy began their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland at the Stadio Ennio Tardini in Parma. Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile found the net for the Azzurri as they ran out comfortable winners against the visitors.
Northern Ireland had an energetic start to the game, but Italy swiftly dampened their enthusiasm with a goal in the 14th minute. Domenico Berardi ran on to Alessandro Florenzi's chip down the line before hammering the ball into the net from a tight angle.
The Sassuolo talisman continued to create chances aplenty as Italy dominated the rest of the half. Ciro Immobile made it 2-0 in the 39th minute after his fierce strike at the end of a counter-attack pierced Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his near post once again.
Italy nearly undid their good work ten minutes into the second half, as Manuel Locatelli's under-hit backpass forced Gianluigi Donnarumma to make a few excellent saves.
The Azzurri managed to kill the game off as the half progressed, although their British visitors spurned a great chance to score in the final minutes. Italy, nevertheless, held out for a 2-0 win as they began their race to Qatar with aplomb.
On that note, let's have a look at the five major talking points from the game:
#1 Domenico Berardi repays Roberto Mancini's faith
Domenico Berardi came into this game in fine goal-scoring form, netting twice in Sassuolo's 2-3 loss to Hellas Verona.
It was no surprise then that the 26-year-old started the match for Roberto Mancini's Italy. Mancini has stuck with Berardi even when he hasn't been amongst the goals, which has earned the former a fair bit of criticism.
However, Berardi has shown his manager that he's a player to rely upon. Apart from an excellently-taken goal, Berardi was Italy's best creative outlet on the night. He sent in multiple inswinging deliveries from the right wing that caused havoc in the Northern Irish defence.
Berardi was somewhat quiet in the second half as he tended to go missing at times. If Mancini keeps him motivated and in form, though, he could be key to Italy's chances of reaching Qatar.
#2 Northern Ireland punch above their weight against Italy
Northern Ireland are hardly the biggest of names in Europe, let alone world football, unlike their opponents on the night.
Yet, Ian Baraclough's men didn't exactly roll out the carpet for Italy. Josh Magennis and Gavin Whyte, who lead the line for League 1 side Hull City, were full of running and needed Italy to be on their toes.
Baraclough, who does have Premier League quality in defence, with Stuart Dallas, Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart, played out a second half where they stood firm against Italy's attack.
Shayne Lafery showed plenty of promise in attack after he came on, fashioning a couple of half-chances for his teammates. While Italy are clear favourites in the group, Northern Ireland could definitely go toe-to-toe against the likes of Switzerland and Bulgaria.