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New-look Italy beat Hungary to continue unbeaten Nations League start


Cesena (Italy) (AFP) – Italy continued an unbeaten start to their UEFA Nations League campaign on Tuesday after beating Hungary 2-1 with an inexperienced line-up.

First-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Pellegrini in Cesena were enough for the Azzurri to see off Hungary in a largely impressive display blighted by Gianluca Mancini’s own goal.

Roberto Mancini selected a host of players who played little or no role in Italy’s triumph at Euro 2020, the glow of which has dimmed after failing to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Before Tuesday’s League A, Group 3 match Italy had won just three of the 11 matches played since being crowned European champions at Wembley, one of those a meaningless win in Turkey days after being dumped out of the World Cup by North Macedonia.

The hammering Italy took at the hands of Argentina in last week’s ‘Finalissima’ in London seemed to confirm a deep crisis.

But a youthful XI showed signs of life in Saturday’s draw with Germany and they took that momentum to Cesena, frequently playing with the style and verve which characterised Mancini’s team before the Euro.

Barella opened the scoring in the 30th minute, firing home his eighth Italy goal via two slight deflections after great work down the left from Leonardo Spinazzola.

Pellegrini almost laid on teen talent Wilfried Gnonto moments before the break when he scampered in behind and rolled an inviting pass across goal which was well cut out by Loic Nego.

However the Roma captain then doubled the hosts’ lead seconds later, making no mistake when meeting Matteo Politano’s pull-back to net his second goal in as many Italy games.

Politano crashed a shot off the bar nine minutes after the break and six minutes later Hungary were back in the game when centre-back Mancini, who up to that point had been one of Italy’s best performers, turned in substitute Attila Fiola’s low cross under no pressure.

From there the away side pushed for a leveller as the home side visibly tired, but beyond a couple of speculative efforts couldn’t build on their opening win over England.

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