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Italy through after ousting nine-man Slovakia

Italy 3-1 Slovakia (agg 4-2)
The Azzurrini's first-leg scorer Andrea Belotti struck again as the 2013 runners-up reached the finals at the expense of nine-man Slovakia.

Italy goalscorer Andrea Belotti (left) tussles with Slovakia's Milan Škriniar
Italy goalscorer Andrea Belotti (left) tussles with Slovakia's Milan Škriniar ©Getty Images

Runners-up in 2013, Italy are through to next summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals after a 3-1 victory in the second leg of their play-off tie against Slovakia.

Having drawn 1-1 in Zlate Moravce on Friday, the Azzurrini had the comfort of a two-goal cushion by the 15th minute in Reggio Emilia thanks to Federico Bernardeschi's deft strike and a penalty from Italy's first-leg scorer Andrea Belotti.

Stanislav Lobotka gave home coach Luigi Di Biagio cause for concern when he reduced the ten-man visitors' aggregate arrears to one after the hour – Ondrej Duda having been sent off on 34 minutes – but with Slovakia down to nine following Adam Zreľák's dismissal, substitute Samuele Longo made sure of Italy's qualification late on.

After Domenico Berardi's shot was blocked, the ball fell kindly for Bernardeschi to send a delicate lob over Dobrivoj Rusov from the edge of the area with five minutes gone. Slovakia soon had a chance to level when Jakub Paur fed Zreľák, whose effort deflected wide of the far post.

The hosts doubled their lead from the spot. Berardi was fouled by Paur and Belotti converted with the aid of the upright. Duda, booked for protesting about the award of the penalty, quickly received a second yellow card for a foul on Berardi. However, Ivan Galád's men dug in and half-time replacement Lobotka got Slovakia on the scoreboard following a fine solo run and chip over Francesco Bardi.

The game seemed up for Slovakia when Zreľák picked up his second booking 12 minutes from time. Longo removed any lingering doubt in the final 60 seconds, slotting in Bernardeschi's cross from a tight angle.