Chelsea duo inspire England to convincing victory...
New York Stadium hosted its third international fixture and continued to be a happy hunting ground for England as a Ruben Loftus-Cheek inspired performance, saw Sean O’Driscoll’s men run out 3-0 winners.
Isiah Brown netted twice in the first period, before standout midfield man, and Chelsea teammate Loftus-Cheek sealed the deal early in the second-half.
It was a nervy start for England who could have been punished when Brendan Galloway, now of Everton conceded possession in his own half to Vido Luca, but fortunately, Bryn Morris was alert to cut out the danger of a dangerous looking ball across goal.
It caused a reaction, and immediately up the other end, the imposing figure of Isiah Brown strolled inside before unleashing a left-footed thunderbolt that drifted just wide.
A cagey opening 10 minutes saw little in the way of clear-cut opportunities, although Perugia loanee Vittorio Parigini almost changed that with a teasing ball across goal that was just inches away from the onrushing Azzurri attack.
Again though, England reacted, and again it was a shot from distance, this time the highly-rated Loftus-Cheek tried his luck, but it was high over the bar, despite the efforts of Simone Scuffet to give it respect it didn’t really deserve.
15 minutes in, and the deadlock was broken, and it was the duo who had the earlier two chances who made it happen; across from the left-hand side found Loftus-Cheek, whose header was expertly saved by Scuffet, only for Brown to compose himself and smash home the rebound.
By now England were comfortable, and with Brandon Barker causing problems down the left, they were awarded another corner. The usually reliant Italian defence, taking little from their senior counterparts took time to organise, and Brown, confident from his first strike collected it short before taking his time to bend a terrific effort beyond Scuffet and into the bottom corner.
As the half-hour mark approached, the visitors finally tested Angus Gunn in the England goal. Daniele Verde struck a free-kick which bypassed the wall, but the Three Lions stopper stood up to the test and pulled off a fine reaction save. From the resulting set-piece, Vido should really have done better with a through-ball but looped his effort high over the bar.
The goalmouth action dried up as both sides settled into a pattern, but when the impressive Loftus-Cheek was brought down on the edge of the area, Brandon Barker, provider earlier in the game, tried his luck with the dead ball, drawing a good save from Scuffet.
Vido, continuing his search for a goal, did considerably better than his previous effort when taking aim from distance, but his drilled effort just left of centre, bent wide of the far post.
The half drew to a close with relatively little action in the final moments, but for an ambitious effort from Loftus-Cheek which Scuffet tipped wide at full stretch.
England 2-0 Italy
Like the first-half, the second took a mistake to really get going as Loftus-Cheek robbed the Italian backline of possession before bursting through on goal only to be denied once again by the busy Scuffet.
Captain Morris took aim from distance but could only find the back of the stand, and with Italy sloppy in possession once again at the back, Dele Alli stole the ball this time, only to suffer the same fate, with Scuffet deflecting the ball behind for a corner.
With the action slowing down in the second period, supporters took to using smart phones to a light show in the crowd, but there was no secret to who was shining brightest on the pitch with Loftus-Cheek finally getting his name on the scoresheet. More careless play at the back by Italy allowed double goalscorer Brown to take advantage, before squaring for his Chelsea teammate to take a touch and chip the onrushing ‘keeper.
Substitute Alex Kiwomya, who was local to the area prior to his move to Chelsea was introduced, and his injection of pace certainly added spark to the contest. Collecting the ball on half-way he pierced through the Italian backline, before feeding Loftus-Cheek on the left; a shimmy and drop of the shoulder took him around the ‘keeper but his ball across goal just had too much pace for the England attackers to be able to divert goalwards.
Double goalscorer Brown collected the official Man of the Match award, but Loftus-Cheek’s impact couldn’t be bettered as he dictated the ball in the final 10 minutes to see out an impressive England victory.
England: Gunn (Smith 76), Aina (Dickie 71), Chilwell (Bryan 71), Morris (Colkett 62), Galloway, Alli (Colkett 62), Roberts (Kiwomya 62), Loftus-Cheek, Barker, Brown (Fewster 71), Smith-Brown.
Unused: Winks, Griffiths.
Italy: Scuffet, Troiani, Lo Porto, Pellegrini, Capradossi, Calabresi, Verde (Baldini 82), Mandragora (Sbrissa 71), Bunino (Pugliese 57), Parigini (Piu 71), Vido (Bentivegna 82).
Unused: Meret, Bonifazzi, Gemignani, Dimarco, Sciacca, Murgia.