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Ten-man Italy leave Denmark in the mire

Italy 3-1 Denmark
Riccardo Montolivo, Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli all scored as Italy shrugged off Pablo Osvaldo's red card to move clear at the Group B summit.

Riccardo Montolivo celebrates after putting Italy in front against Denmark
Riccardo Montolivo celebrates after putting Italy in front against Denmark ©AFP/Getty Images

Italy hold a four-point advantage at the top of Group B after defeating Denmark 3-1 at San Siro, despite having to play almost the entire second half with ten men.

Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi looked to have put the Azzurri in control with two goals in a five-minute spell just after the half-hour but Denmark responded in first-half stoppage time through William Kvist. Danish hopes rose again when Pablo Osvaldo was sent off seconds after the restart but Mario Balotelli struck a third Italy goal in the 54th minute and Cesare Prandelli's men now have ten points from four FIFA World Cup qualifying games.

Denmark, by contrast, have just two from a possible 12, a gloomy position contrasting with their bright start in Milan where Nicklas Bendtner just missed the target with a header after three minutes. Morgan De Sanctis, replacing the injured Gianluigi Buffon in the Azzurri goal, then had to dive to his right to claw away a powerful shot by Christian Eriksen.

Italy went close after 19 minutes when Simon Kjær headed a Claudio Marchisio shot off his own line but in the 33rd minute, they got the breakthrough. Balotelli found Montolivo on the edge of the box with a neat back-heel and the AC Milan midfielder unleashed a powerful angled shot beyond the reach of Stephan Andersen. It was two soon after as De Rossi headed in from Andrea Pirlo's right-wing cross.

Denmark got back into the game in the first minute of first-half added time when Kvist unleashed a volley from a deflected cross by Lars Jacobsen from the right.

Italy then became a man light after Osvaldo was sent off for elbowing Nicolai Stokholm but home anxieties were eased when Pirlo's perfect long pass found Balotelli behind the Denmark defence and the striker, on the stretch, sent a first-time volley over the outrushing Andersen.