North Macedonia strike late to defy Italy victory

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North Macedonia strike late to defy Italy victory

Updated
Gjoko Zajkov challenges with Ciro Immobile for the ball
Gjoko Zajkov challenges with Ciro Immobile for the ballAFP
North Macedonia struck a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Italy and end a remarkable run of seven consecutive away victories in qualifying for the visitors.

Luciano Spalletti’s Italy controlled the first half in his debut game as head coach, but they couldn’t find a way through despite numerous chances. Bryan Cristante came close on two occasions from corners while Sandro Tonali struck the inside of the post when sent through on goal.

North Macedonia maintained a constant threat on the counterattack, and they could’ve taken the lead when Bojan Miovski was found free at the back post, but the forward couldn’t guide his diving header on target.

Everything changed for the visitors straight after the break when the new captain Ciro Immobile looped in a headed rebound to make it 1-0 after a spinning volley from Nicolò Barella crashed off the bar.

Despite some further pressure they couldn’t immediately add to their lead, and they almost conceded on 66 minutes when Napoli midfielder Elif Elmas attempted to ruin his former manager’s night but his curling effort went just wide.

As the game progressed the momentum started to shift towards the hosts as they pushed for an equaliser, while Italy were beginning to look nervous and conceded multiple free-kicks in dangerous areas.

They were finally made to pay with 10 minutes to go when Enis Bardhi whipped in the perfect free-kick into the far corner, leaving Gianluigi Donnarumma with no chance.

Spalleti responded by making a double change in a bid to wrestle back control of the game, but the damage had been done and it was the hosts who finished the game stronger despite not finding a late winner.

Ultimately, it’s a result that doesn’t do either team any major favours. Italy can still draw level with Ukraine in second place if they win their game in hand, while North Macedonia are level on points with the Italians, having played a game more.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Enis Bardhi (North Macedonia)

North Macedona - Italy player ratings
North Macedona - Italy player ratingsFlashscore

Check out all the match stats with Flashscore.

Elsewhere in the late kick-offs for Euro 2024 qualification, Kosovo left it late to earn themselves a 2-2 draw against Switzerland. They had Vedat Muriqi to thank for their point - their fourth in Group I - as the striker scored both goals in Pristina.

Romania remain two points behind the Swiss at the summit of the group after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Israel.

Check out the full report from the game now.

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