Strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Alessandro Matri were both on target as 10-man Italy beat Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine 2-0 in an international friendly on Tuesday.
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Rossi prodded home in the 27th minute when a deflected ball fell to him in the box, and Matri fired in late on when Italy broke forward on the counter as Ukraine was pressing for an equalizer.
Those were the only real chances created by an Italy team with seven changes from the side that beat Slovenia 1-0 in a Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday.
The Azzurri were frequently outplayed by Ukraine, but the host created few clear chances and failed to capitalize when Italy substitute Davide Astori was sent off with 15 minutes remaining.
”I’m happy because, despite some difficulty, the guys were able to play like they’re capable of,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. ”These matches are important for evaluating players. We’ve got to maintain this spirit and keep looking for victory.”
Ukraine, missing star striker Andriy Shevchenko because of a family illness, lacked spark around the penalty box in his absence and failed to take advantage of a subdued Italian performance.
The game started promisingly for Ukraine, center back Yaroslav Rakytskiy intercepting a pass on the halfway line in the first minute, bursting forward before driving a powerful shot from 35 yards that hit the post with the goalkeeper beaten.
In the 15th minute, Oleh Husev slotted a pass through to Artem Fedetskiy running into the penalty box from the right wing, but the fullback’s shot was easily stopped by Emiliano Viviano at his near post.
Italy broke forward rapidly in the 19th minute after Oleksandr Aliyev had made a mess of a free kick. But Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, playing at center back instead of his usual midfield holding role, stopped Rossi before he could pick out an unmarked Alberto Gilardino.
Italy pressed hard, not giving its host – which was missing Tymoshchuk’s bite in midfield – time to settle on the ball.
The Azzurri’s endeavor was rewarded in the 27th minute with a comical goal. Rossi pounced to hook the ball into the bottom corner after a shot from Alberto Aquilani had ricocheted off Gilardino’s backside.
Ukraine struggled to respond with Yevhen Seleznyov an isolated figure up front. The hosts almost gave up a second soft goal in the 46th, when Rakytskiy deflected an Italian corner toward his own goal, but Oleksandr Shovkovskiy got down sharply to save.
Shovkovskiy had to react quickly again in the 52nd minute to sprint out of his goal and slide to clear the ball as Rossi looked to latch on to a through ball by Ricardo Montolivo.
Ukraine coach Yuriy Kalytvyntsev brought on Marko Devic to support Seleznyov up front, and his team started to look more threatening.
Italy was now sitting back, happy to absorb pressure before looking to counter.
The match seemed set for a tight finish when Astori was sent off on debut in the 74th minute after receiving a second yellow card for needlessly kicking the ball away after a foul.
But Italy sealed the win in the 81st minute from a slick break. Sebastian Giovinco burst clear of the defense, playing a neat backheel to fellow substitute Matri, who drove the ball into the goal off the inside of the far post.
Ukraine had the ball in the Italian net one minute later, but Devic was narrowly offside.