Italy held by Macedonia 1-1 but into World Cup playoffs

Italy's Ciro Immobile, center, controls the ball during a World Cup Group G qualifying soccer match between Italy and Macedonia in Turin, Italy, Friday,  Oct. 6, 2017. (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

TURIN, Italy (AP) Italy secured a qualifying playoff spot for next year’s World Cup but it was booed off the pitch after drawing with Macedonia 1-1 on Friday.

Defender Giorgio Chiellini gave Italy the lead shortly before halftime but substitute Aleksandar Trajkovski leveled with 13 minutes remaining.

Italy didn’t have a shot on target after Chiellini’s goal, against a side ranked outside the top 100.

Italy remained second in Group G, five points behind Spain, and can’t be caught heading into the last round of European qualifiers.

Gian Piero Ventura’s side needed just a point from its final two qualifiers against Macedonia and Albania but confidence was low after last month’s 3-0 loss in Spain.

Despite winning only 3-2 in Skopje last year thanks to a stoppage-time goal, Italy was expected to easily sweep away Macedonia in Turin.

However, the Azzuri struggled to carve out opportunities.

Italy finally broke the deadlock five minutes from halftime from an unlikely source. Lorenzo Insigne sent a ball through to in-form forward Ciro Immobile, who rolled it across the six-yard box for Chiellini to tap in.

Chiellini came to the rescue at the other end moments later with a last-ditch tackle after Leonardo Bonucci gave away possession with a terrible pass.

It was more of the same in the second half with Macedonia content to sit back and wait for an opening.

That came in the 77th minute as Trajkovski, who plays for Italian second-division side Palermo, fired a through ball from Goran Pandev into the far side of the net.