Ten-man Italy began their 2018 World Cup qualifiers with a 3-1 win over Israel with goals from Graziano Pelle, Antonio Candreva and Ciro Immobile proving the difference, even though Tal Ben Chaim had reduced the deficit to 2-1 after 35 minutes.
The scoreline may however deceive as both sides had equal share of possession at the end of the game, even though the Italians had dominated early on.
The former world champions began brightly, and soon took the lead, and were soon ahead as a Luca Antonelli ball found Pelle, who swiftly converted to give the Azzurri’s the lead after only 14 minutes.
The Israelis pushed on for an equalizer as they mounted a spirited effort, which resulted on Giorgio Chiellini receiving his first booking of the evening as he fouled an Israeli player under pressure.
However, it was Italy who doubled their lead in the 31st minute as the Israelis failed to keep their nerves, which saw defender Ben Bitton bringing down Giacomo Bonaventura in the box and the referee wasted no time in pointing to the spot.
Inter Milan midfielder Antonio Candreva stepped up and put the ball in the back of the net to give Italy a 2-0 lead.
Israel would however half the deficit four minutes later as the impressive Tal Ben Chaim scored an excellent goal to give them what seemed a lifeline.
Israel’s relentless pressure saw the Azzurri seemingly caving in as Chiellini was sent off for a second bookable offence, after being guilty of pushing Tommer Hemmed.
The Italians however held on nicely before Immobile made all three points certain with a cool finish in the 83rd minute.
The victory means new Italy boss Giampiero Ventura begins his reign in competitive games with a win and also put them joint top of group G along with Spain, who beat Liechtenstein 8-0.