England ended Italy’s 40-game unbeaten run in European qualifiers with a 2-1 win in Naples to kick off their journey to Euro 2024.
Declan Rice and Harry Kane both scored in a dominant first half from the Three Lions, but Mateo Retegui pulled one back after the break and kickstarted a massive switch in momentum which had England holding on for large parts of the second half.
Luke Shaw’s late red card did little to help things but England stood firm and secured their first victory on Italian soil since 1961.
The two sides exchanged periods of dominance inside the opening ten minutes, with Mateo Retegui failing to make the most of an early header before Bukayo Saka’s effort was comfortably saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Jude Bellingham then sent a long-range effort thundering towards goal which drew an acrobatic save from Italy’s stopper, but the resulting corner ricocheted around and dropped to the feet of Rice, who smashed home after 13 minutes to put England ahead.
There could have been a second for England soon after as Kane’s low cross was narrowly ahead of Bukayo Saka and seemingly caught Jack Grealish by surprise when there was a potential tap-in waiting for the Manchester City winger.
Kalvin Phillips fired wide from range on the half-hour mark as England continued to flex their dominance, and they were given the chance to double their lead when VAR spotted a handball from Giovanni Di Lorenzo in the penalty area.
Up stepped Kane, who made no mistake as he converted to become England’s all-time leading male goalscorer shortly before the break.
Grealish failed to convert a glorious chance just moments after, with England forced to settle for a two-goal lead at the interval.
Italy had the first real chance of the second half as Lorenzo Pellegrini slashed over from close range, but debutant Retegui made no such error as he drilled low past Jordan Pickford ten minutes after the break.
The hosts did not stop there and wrestled control of proceedings away from England, dominating the ball and pressuring the Three Lions into a number of shaky errors as they sought an equaliser.
To add to the pressure, England were made to finish the game with ten men after Luke Shaw picked up two yellow cards in quick succession around the 80th minute, but Italy could not capitalise and so it was England who were celebrating after the final whistle.
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 5/10 – Failed to inspire any sort of confidence at the back.
RB: Giovanni Di Lorenzo – 4/10 – Crucially lost Kane for both of England’s first-half goals and was torched by Bellingham and Grealish.
CB: Rafael Toloi – 5/10 – Looked uncomfortable whenever England’s forwards ran at him.
CB: Francesco Acerbi – 5/10 – Slow and lacked composure. Couldn’t cope with Kane.
LB: Leonardo Spinazzola – 6/10 – A huge threat for the first five minutes but faded in the first half. Became a bigger threat after the break.
DM: Jorginho – 5/10 – Offered very little at the base of midfield in the first half but calmed himself down after the break.
CM: Marco Verratti – 6/10 – A poor first half but enjoyed plenty of control in the second as Italy tried to fight their way back into the game.
CM: Nicolo Barella – 4/10 – Couldn’t get anywhere near Bellingham.
RW: Domenico Berardi – 4/10 – Barely got into the game. An anonymous performance.
ST: Mateo Retegui – 6/10 – Took a long while to get into the game but made his debut a memorable one with a nice finish.
LW: Lorenzo Pellegrini – 6/10 – Not himself out on the left but still managed to make a telling impact with an assist.
Matteo Politano (62′ for Berardi) – 7/10 – His energy down the right was crucial in changing the tempo of the game. Deserved an assist.
Bryan Cristante (62′ for Barella) – 6/10 – Brought some physicality to the midfield and seemed up for a fight whenever tensions started to rise.
Wilfried Gnonto (69′ for Pellegrini) – 7/10 – Should’ve had more minutes. A major threat down the left.
Sandro Tonali (69′ for Jorginho) – 7/10 – His pressing disrupted England’s midfield and helped turn the tide.
Gianluca Scamacca (88′ for Verratti) – N/A
Roberto Mancini – 6/10 – Some sensational substitutions from Mancini but you have to ask why they did not come earlier. Got the starting lineup wrong but at least atoned for that with the right changes.
GK: Jordan Pickford – 6/10 – A reasonably quiet night for the Everton stopper aside from picking the ball out of the net.
RB: Kyle Walker – 5/10 – Had a few shaky moments in defence and really struggled when Gnonto started running at him.
CB: John Stones – 6/10 – Impressed in defence but was caught out of position for Retegui’s strike.
CB: Harry Maguire – 6/10 – A solid showing on his return to a starting lineup. Could be heard barking orders and encouraging his teammates as they had to dig in late on.
LB: Luke Shaw – 3/10 – Two yellow cards in 54 seconds was a foolish end to what was otherwise a decent showing from the Man Utd defender.
DM: Declan Rice – 8/10 – Dominated the midfield battle both physically and technically in the first half but had to do some ugly work as the tables turned.
CM: Kalvin Phillips – 6/10 – Not as prominent as those around him but his selfless dirty work allowed Rice and Bellingham to shine in more advanced roles.
CM: Jude Bellingham – 7/10 – Buzzed around the pitch with real elegance in the first half but took a step back after the break.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 7/10 – Dangerous out wide. Involved in plenty of England’s brightest moments and linked up well with Kane.
ST: Harry Kane – 8/10 – A record-breaking evening for Kane, who worked tirelessly all over the pitch. Excellent hold-up play and defensive work, and he deserved his goal.
LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Involved in a lot but lacked a little composure in front of goal. Definitely should have been on the score sheet.
Phil Foden (69′ for Grealish) – 5/10 – A quiet showing before being sacrificed after the red card.
Kieran Trippier (81′ for Foden) – N/A
Reece James (85′ for Saka) – N/A
Conor Gallagher (85′ for Bellingham) – N/A
Gareth Southgate – 6/10 – The opposite of Mancini. Got his lineup and starting system perfect but had no answer when things got a little crazy, although he was hampered by the red card.