Reports: North Macedonia 1-1 Italy

New Italy boss Luciano Spalletti began his reign as Italy manager with a disappointing 1-1 draw with North Macedonia. The Azzurri had to contend with a dry, bobbly pitch and looked to have come out unscathed only to be stung with a late equalizer in Skopje.

Spalletti, the former Napoli boss who claimed he would take a year sabbatical before cutting that short to take the Italy job admitted, “The Italy anthem is worth 100 times the Champions League anthem” and stated he wanted his Azzurri to prove that starting with tonight’s match against North Macedonia.

They certainly sang the anthem with gusto before coming out all guns blazing in the first half without managing to make their dominance pay. Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali hit the post and Bryan Cristante forced a fantastic save which kept him from scoring his first Italian goal all within the opening 15 minutes.

However, it was not one-way traffic as Aberdeen’s Bojan Miovski was gifted all the space in the box from a perfect Ezgjan Alioski cross, only to see his downward header whistle wide of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s post.

The game then became more even with North Macedonia gaining confidence in their play, but it was Italy who had the next big chance – Matteo Poiltano seeing a shot blocked off the line.

The second half was only two minutes old when Italy’s new captain Ciro Immobile guided a header from a Nicolò Barella shot that had rebounded off the bar into the North Macedonian net. The goal was checked with a lengthy VAR replay for a potential foul, but it was given and Italy had taken the lead.

North Macedonia struggled to lay a glove on Italy in the second half, despite chasing the game at 1-0 down with a shot that whistled past the post they closest they came to scoring heading into the final twenty minutes.

A free-kick from Ezgjan Alioski was wasted straight into the Italian wall, but minutes later, North Macedonia captain Enis Bardhi stepped up on the opposite angle and slammed a direct free-kick of his own past Donnarumma.

That left the game in the balance going into the last 10 minutes and both sides created chances to go on and win the match, but neither were able to convert their opportunities and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

That leaves Italy on just four points, but if they win their game in hand on second placed Ukraine they will go level with them with four games remaining.