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De Rossi penalty edges Italy closer to finals

Italy 1-0 Bulgaria
Antonio Conte's side returned to the summit of Group H, with Daniele De Rossi striking from the penalty spot before being dismissed.

Highlights: Italy 1-0 Bulgaria
  • Daniele De Rossi nets the only goal from the spot on six minutes
  • De Rossi and Ilian Mitsanski then dismissed for 55th-minute altercation
  • Yordan Minev and Svetoslav Dyakov both booked to earn suspensions
  • Italy record eighth victory from nine competitive matches in Palermo
  • Next games: Azerbaijan v Italy, Croatia v Bulgaria (10 October)

Italy took a crucial step towards UEFA EURO 2016 qualification from Group H as a 1-0 scoreline against Bulgaria belied the hosts' dominance in a comfortable victory. 

Daniele De Rossi struck a composed penalty on six minutes before being sent off along with Bulgaria's Ilian Mitsanski ten minutes into the second half. The Italians' second home success in four days following their 1-0 win against Malta took them back to the top of the section two points clear of Norway, who beat early group pacesetters Croatia.

The hosts should have been ahead in the first minute, when Graziano Pellè side-footed Antonio Candreva's cross straight at Bozhidar Mitrev, with Stephan El Shaarawy firing over an acrobatic close-range attempt from the rebound.

However, fourth-placed Bulgaria's luck was out when Veselin Minev failed to anticipate a challenge from Candreva as he attempted to clear inside the area, managing only to make contact with the Azzurri midfielder while aiming for the ball. De Rossi's initial spot kick was ruled out for encroachment, but he held his nerve with a crisply struck effort to the right of goal. 

Gianluigi Buffon enjoys another clean sheet
Gianluigi Buffon enjoys another clean sheet©Getty Images

Antonio Conte's side continued to dominate, with a pair of chances falling to Candreva and Pellè, yet they still had goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to thank for a brilliant stop when De Rossi surrendered possession in the centre circle, enabling Mitsanski to surge to the edge of the box before unleashing a fierce goal-bound drive. 

Mitrev produced a stunning save at the beginning of the second half to repel Marco Parolo's deflected attempt, before a fiery period of play started with De Rossi and Mitsanski being shown red cards for an altercation following a challenge. Instead of the game opening up, however, Italy kept the ball from their opponents and closed out their eighth victory from nine competitive matches in Palermo.