Italy strengthened their grip on UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group C after a victory against Estonia in Modena that maintained their five-point lead.
Goals by Giuseppe Rossi, Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini earned the Azzurri their fifth win of the campaign, which has all but secured their place in Poland and Ukraine. They have the chance to move closer to next year's finals in their next fixture, on 2 September against the Faroe Islands, who are Estonia's opponents on Tuesday.
The hosts dominated this match, a midfield boasting the creative strengths of Andrea Pirlo, Alberto Aquilani and Riccardo Montolivo running rings around the visitors in support of a lively strike-force of Cassano and Rossi. The front two combined beautifully on 13 minutes when Cassano was put clean through by his fellow forward only to be denied by the legs of Sergei Pereiko, who then had to repel Rossi's goalbound header from a Pirlo corner.
The Estonia goalkeeper saved again from the Villarreal CF striker after Rossi had raced on to Montolivo's threaded pass but he was beaten by the same player on 21 minutes, Rossi controlling Cassano's ball, advancing into the area and finishing adroitly. Estonia, swamped by the tide of blue shirts, threatened rarely, an ambitious Tarmo Kink shot leaving Gianluigi Buffon untroubled. Pereiko, while relieved to see a Rossi thunderbolt come back off the post, was then powerless to prevent Cassano's shot on the turn going in off the same upright to double Italy's lead.
The second half continued in the same vein with Cesare Prandelli's side painting pretty passing patterns around a tiring Estonian rearguard. Pirlo struck the foot of the post with a free-kick on 66 minutes, but it was Pazzini who extended the Azzurri lead three minutes after replacing Cassano, the FC Internazionale Milano striker running on to Montolivo's long ball before rifling his second international goal past Pereiko. Estonia almost found a way past Buffon with two late long-range strikes by Sander Puri, but this would be Italy's fifth win, and clean sheet, in six qualifying matches.
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.