Pukki scores again but Italy stays perfect in Finland
TAMPERE, Finland (AP) — Italy benefited from a generous hand ball decision and converted a late penalty for a 2-1 win at Finland to extend its perfect start to European Championship qualifying on Sunday.
Sauli Väisänen appeared to have his arm across his chest when he stopped a shot from Andrea Belotti but the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot and Jorginho quickly converted the winner in the 79th.
Teemu Pukki had earned and converted a penalty for Finland seven minutes earlier after Ciro Immobile opened the scoring for Italy with a header near the hour mark.
“We did struggle a bit but that was our own doing. We were dominating and gave the ball away ingenuously,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said of the play that led to Pukki’s penalty. “We have to try to improve. … But it’s very positive to dominate away from home when making five changes from the last match, so we have a lot of talent to draw from.”
Italy extended its lead over second-place Finland in Group J to six points.
Armenia, which is nine points back in third, beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 4-2 as Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored twice and set up the other two goals.
Bosnia coach Robert Prosinecki resigned after the match.
Overall, including friendlies, Italy has won seven straight — two shy of the record of nine set under famed coach Vittorio Pozzo.
With another victory in its next match against Greece in Rome, Italy will qualify for Euro 2020 and host the opening game of the tournament in the same Stadio Olimpico.
“After the disappointment of the World Cup, we are back on track with Italy,” Immobile said, referring to the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for last year’s tournament in Russia.
Immobile’s goal — his first for Italy in more than two years — came by redirecting an impressive cross from Federico Chiesa at the far post.
Stefano Sensi then gave the ball away and tried to make up for it by tripping Pukki to set up Finland’s penalty and Pukki’s seventh goal for club and country this season.