Nicolo Barella sinks Dutch as Italy get back on winning trail
Italy returned to winning ways as Nicolo Barella's header just before halftime secured a 1-0 victory away to a below-par Netherlands in their Nations League clash at an empty Johan Cruyff Arena.
Italy showed the greater urgency and quality throughout and were full value for the win that follows Friday’s disappointing 1-1 home draw with Bosnia in which their 11-match winning run came to a surprise end.
It was a first loss for Netherlands interim manager Dwight Lodeweges in his second game in charge after replacing Ronald Koeman and he will be concerned at the limp display from his side, who rarely threatened the visitors' goal.
Italy head the League A Group 1 standings with four points from two games, followed by Netherlands and Poland, who have three points each, and Bosnia with one.
Italy, who made seven changes after Friday’s draw, dominated the opening half and after Barella had seen his shot from the edge of the box deflected narrowly over the crossbar, Ciro Immobile was within a whisker of giving his side the lead.
The Netherlands’ only effort on target in the opening period came from Georginio Wijnaldum, who capped a strong run by shooting straight at Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from the edge of the box.
The visitors got the goal their play deserved just before halftime when Immobile's cross from the left allowed Barella to ghost in between the Netherlands centre-backs and head into the net.
An excellent Italian move early in the second period saw Lorenzo Insigne force an excellent diving save from Jasper Cillessen as his 25-yard shot curled towards the top corner, while at the end Donny Van de Beek forced a finger-tip save from Donnarumma, the closest the home side came to a goal.
In the other match in the pool, Poland claimed a 2-1 victory at Bosnia & Herzegovina as Kamil Glik and Kamil Grosicki netted with headers for the visitors.
Haris Hajradinovic had given the home side the lead from the penalty spot.
Norway beat Northern Ireland 5-1 in their Nations League match on Monday with Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland leading the charge with two goals and an assist in Belfast on Monday.
Mohamed Elyounoussi gave Norway the lead in the second minute but, after Paddy McNair equalised, Haaland got the goal of the game with an emphatic half-volley from the edge of the box that had keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell rooted to the spot.
Alexander Sorloth made it 3-1 when he scored from a cross at the far post and the striker doubled his tally two minutes after the restart when Norway launched a counter-attack and Haaland forced his way through to lay it on a plate for a simple tap-in.
Haaland then got his second by completing a fine move in which the ball moved up the pitch with precise one-touch passes for the 20-year-old hitman to curl it into the top corner.
Steven Davis equalled goalkeeper Pat Jennings' record of 119 caps for Northern Ireland but it was a match to forget for the captain as they dropped to the bottom of the group with no wins following their 1-1 draw with Romania last week.
The Romanians top League B Group 1 on four points with Norway third after losing their first match 2-1 to Austria who are one place above them but also have three points.
Scotland's Ryan Christie netted a second-half penalty to secure a 2-1 win in the Nations League on Monday away to a Czech side featuring nine players making their international debuts due to novel coronavirus concerns that forced wholesale changes.
The Czechs had a dream start to the League B Group 2 match when Jakub Pesek ran behind the defence and jinked a Stanislav Tecl pass beyond goalkeeper David Marshall to score.
Lyndon Dykes levelled for the visitors in the 27th minute after Liam Palmer found space down the right flank and crossed the ball into the penalty area for the Queens Park Rangers forward to direct the ball into the roof of the net.
Scotland then took the lead just after the break when Tomas Malinsky brought down Andy Robertson just inside the box and Christie converted from the spot.
Slavia Prague's Tecl missed a golden chance to equalise in the 68th minute when he found himself with an opening in front of goal but could only scuff his shot wide.
Scotland lead the group on four points ahead of the Czechs with three, Israel two and Slovakia on one after two matches.
The Czechs had to assemble a squad of mainly newcomers led by Under-18 coach David Holoubek after disbanding the team that beat Slovakia 3-1 on Friday due to coronavirus concerns.
The home side had sought to call off the match, after a second team staff member tested positive for the virus.
Only 36-year-old defender Roman Hubnik with 29 appearances -- the last in 2016 -- and Tecl with five caps, had previously played for the national team.
"We had a difficult task today but all credit to the players who were able to show a display that we can be proud of," said Holoubek. "But I'm disappointed because we did not get any reward for it."
Scotland's Dykes told Sky Sports: "It was a tough game. We came into hard conditions, given what's happened, but in the end we got the three points so you couldn't ask for any more."
In the other Group 2 match Israel snatched a goal in added time to draw 1-1 at home to Slovakia.
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