Italy thrash Lithuania, England held by Poland in World Cup qualifying

Paris: Moise Kean grabbed his first international goals since March 2019 as Italy thrashed Lithuania 5-0 in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday, as Damian Szymanski’s late header forced England to settle for a draw in Poland.

Italy had drawn their previous two qualifiers to slip into a battle with Switzerland for automatic qualification from Group C.

But the European champions, who set a new world record of 36 internationals unbeaten with the goalless draw against the Swiss at the weekend, produced a dominant display against Lithuania in Reggio Emilia.

Young striker Kean, who rejoined Juventus from Everton in the close-season after a successful loan spell at Paris Saint-Germain, scored twice in the first half.

Edgaras Utkus put through his own net and Giacomo Raspadori also scored as Italy moved four ahead at the break.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo made it five in the second period as Roberto Mancini’s side stretched their lead over Switzerland at the top of the table to six points.

“It was important to have won this game with young players, who played very well, especially in the first half,” Mancini told RAI.

“They (Kean and Raspadori) have a great future, everything will depend on them.”

The Azzurri are hoping to banish the memories of their shock failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Swiss do have two games in hand, but they were held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland in Belfast, with Haris Seferovic having a penalty saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

England, who were beaten by Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, lost their 100 percent record in qualifying with a 1-1 draw against Poland in Warsaw.

The hosts were second in Group I, five points behind England, before kick-off and frustrated their opponents for long periods.

England captain Harry Kane appeared to have settled a tempestuous affair with 18 minutes remaining, slamming a swerving long-range shot into the bottom corner to score his 41st international goal. – AFP