Italy looked brilliant in their opening Euro 2016 match as they defeated Belgium, 2-0 on Monday. Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle scored for Italy to help them pick three important points from this mammoth encounter.
However, it was Italy's defence, which stood firm against Belgium's constant threat during the match. Belgium's defence were organised, and stuck to their plans to start the competition on a winning note.
The first few minutes of the match just flew by, with Belgium playing some attractive football and Italy trying to break on the counter. As the game progressed, Belgium looked a dangerous team. Though Belgium were enjoying possession, their midfielders were not able to deliver precise balls to Romelu Lukaku, who was their key-goal scorer.
Italy, on the other hand, all of a sudden took lead in the 32nd minute via Giaccherini's clinical finish. That goal seemed to lift Italy, as they nearly doubled the lead in the 37th minute, but Pelle missed a glorious chance to put Belgium in the back foot.
Belgium did not receive clear cut chances in the first half, as they were taking shots from outside the penalty box, and experienced Gianluigi Buffon was up to the task. However, the first half was entertaining, with the game played in high-intensity.
Lukaku finally got a brilliant ball in the 52nd minute after a swift counter, which started from their own half, but the striker could not find the back of the net despite chipping Buffon. And Belgium goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois kept his team in the game with a huge save few minutes later. The second half was much more open, with both teams creating chances to score.
In fact, Belgium looked a much better team in the second half, but, they were still not able to get that equaliser as Antonio Conte's team showed their defensive skills to hold the star-studded team. Divock Origi came from the bench and provided some pace, which was still not enough for Belgium, and when the Liverpool forward got a chance to score, his header was wide off the mark in the 82nd minute.
In the latter stages of the match, it was all one way traffic, as Belgium were attacking from all sides. But Belgium also provided open spaces at the back, which was exploited by Italy, who scored their second in added time. Pelle struck a beautiful volley to seal the game for Italy.
Earlier, Sweden and Republic of Ireland, other two teams of Group E, were involved in a close match, which ended 1-1. After an eventless first half, Republic of Ireland took lead as Wesley Hoolahan scored in the 47th minute. Sweden, on the other hand, should consider themselves lucky as they were helped by Clark's own goal in the 71st minute.
Though Robbie Keane was brought in for Hoolahan, the experienced striker, who has a never-say-die-attitude, could not help his team pick up the all-important win.
All four teams of Group E -- Sweden, Rep. of Ireland, Belgium and Italy -- have played one match each, and Conte's team lie on top of the table with three points.