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Italy see off Azerbaijan to reach finals

Azerbaijan 1-3 Italy
The Azzurri sealed their spot at UEFA EURO 2016 as Éder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Matteo Darmian were all on target in Baku.

Highlights: Azerbaijan 1-3 Italy
  • Italy become tenth side to qualify for UEFA EURO 2016 with win in Azerbaijan
  • Antonio Conte's side unbeaten in qualifying fixtures since 2006
  • Éder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Matteo Darmian on the scoresheet
  • Dmitri Nazarov scorers hosts' consolation
  • Final games: Bulgaria v Azerbaijan, Italy v Norway

Italy confirmed their place at next summer's UEFA European Championship with a comfortable victory against Azerbaijan thanks to goals from Éder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Matteo Darmian in Baku.

Antonio Conte's side preserved their unbeaten record in qualifying fixtures, which spans back to 2006, but had to respond when Dmitri Nazarov levelled the scores at 1-1 in the 31st minute.

The Azzuri's pedigree prevailed in the end, despite some unusually nervous defending from Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, as they became the tenth side to qualify for UEFA EURO 2016.

In the 11th minute, Marco Verratti ghosted through the Azerbaijan midfield before scooping an incisive diagonal pass over Maksim Medvedev to Éder. The striker had the awareness to sidestep Kamran Agayev and put it through the goalkeeper's legs to open the scoring.

Stephan El Shaarawy scored Italy's second
Stephan El Shaarawy scored Italy's second©Getty Images

Azerbaijan, however, were back on terms 20 minutes later. A searching ball from deep by Ruslan Gurbanov should have been dealt with by Bonucci and Chiellini but the Italy pair instead allowed the ball to roll invitingly to Nazarov on the edge of their penalty area. The striker finished confidently, beating Gianluigi Buffon on the latter's 151st international appearance.

It was ultimately inconsequential as El Shaarawy restored the advantage on the brink of half-time. Graziano Pellè found Antonio Candreva in behind the Azerbaijan defence and the Lazio man cut it across for his team-mate to bundle it into an empty net.

Darmian further eased any nerves among the Italy camp just after the hour mark, picking up a loose ball before evading Nazarov and picking his spot from 25 metres.

It got worse for Robert Prosinečki’s hosts with two minutes to go when Badavi Hüseynov was shown a red card for a foul on Sebastian Giovinco to the floor with Italy substitute closing in on goal.

Giovinco stepped up to take the resulting free-kick from 35 metres, but rattled the crossbar with an audacious curling effort. Italy, however, already had plenty to celebrate.