Oriam’s indoor pitch played host to a thrilling encounter between Italy and Scotland, but ultimately Italy were the happier of the two sides, as they continued their perfect start to the European Women’s U19 Championship Elite Round.
The Azzurri came into the game full of confidence on the back of their 7-1 humbling of Russia on Monday and so were favourites ahead of kick-off. Scotland, however, were looking to put their narrow defeat to Czech Republic behind them and it was the Scots who began brightly.
Straight from kick-off, the ball was manoeuvred out to the right wing and Scotland’s number 10 Shannon McGregor broke forward. After beating the Italian full back, McGregor delivered a dangerous cross, which keeper Nicole Lauria spilled at the feet of the on-rushing Samantha Kerr, who coolly slipped the ball into the bottom corner. The goal sparked jubilant celebrations among the Scots, with the large Tartan Army support on their feet only seconds in.
After their poor start, Italy began to grow into the game and on the five minute mark they had an opportunity of their own. Italy’s Angelica Soffia picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box, and engineered space well, before forcing Scotland goalkeeper Eartha Cumings into a smart save, low to her right.
This was a sign of things to come for Italy, who would go onto to dominate the remainder of the first half, despite not creating many clear-cut chances. The lack of chances was a result of resolute defending from the Scottish back four, who stifled Italy’s creative ability.
It took until the 27th minute for Italy to cause Scotland any major problems. Beatrice Merlo controlled the ball on the edge of the box and her powerful effort fizzed just past the post.
This was a warning for Scotland and, finally, just after the half hour mark, Italy’s dominance paid off. Scotland failed to deal with a good cross from the right wing and the loose ball fell to Agnese Bonfantini who controlled well and smashed her half-volley into the bottom right corner.
Italy’s pressure continued and five minutes before the break a mistake from Leah Eddie allowed Sofia Cantore in on goal, however her deflected effort was brilliantly stopped from Cumings who changed her direction of movement to tip the ball around the post.
Cumings’ excellent save was only delaying the inevitable and on the stroke of half-time, Italy were in front. Melanie Kuenrath cut inside from the right wing and fired a low shot past Cumings and into the bottom left corner, to give Italy a well deserved half-time lead.