Italy became the first team to reach the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-finals thanks to a record-breaking 4-0 victory against Israel.
Devis Mangia's side were made to sweat for their opening victory against England, but, sweltering conditions aside, they ultimately enjoyed a far easier ride in Jaffa this time around. The returning Riccardo Saponara played a key role throughout and opened the scoring on 18 minutes.
Manolo Gabbiadini then came to the fore following Eyal Golasa's red card, adding two goals of his own before Alessandro Florenzi rounded off the scoring. That secured a biggest ever win at an U21 final tournament for Italy, who had twice prevailed 3-0 – in 1994 and 2004 – and lifted the trophy on both occasions.
A known admirer of former senior coach Arrigo Sacchi, Mangia looks to have implemented his very own brand of Calcio Totale if his side's first-half display here is anything to go by. Where they were wholly consummate in possession, Israel were purposeful but frustrated in the early stages, Alon Turgeman twice failing to make a telling connection with only Francesco Bardi to beat.
The precision, the killer instinct that Israel so badly needed, was all too evident at the other end. Though Lorenzo Insigne – later taken off inured – was initially denied by Boris Kleyman, the Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC goalkeeper was soon picking the ball out of his net at his home ground. Insigne provided the cross, Ciro Immobile the deft lay-off and Saponara the cultured first-time finish.
While Golasa's dismissal made the tournament hosts' job a tricky one, Italy's second left them with a mountainous proposition. Though Kleyman had been sprightly enough to thwart Gabbiadini just after the half-hour, the Italy No11 soon got the better of him with a clinical strike from the edge of the penalty area.
No less emphatic from the Juventus forward was the 53rd-minute free-kick which brought Italy's third. Guy Luzon's team were by this point penned in their own half, Florenzi salting their wounds following a delightful nutmeg with 19 minutes left.
Israel must beat England on Tuesday to stand a chance of progressing, while Italy know they will top the section should they avoid defeat by Norway.
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.