Tim Palmer reporting from the City Calling Stadium.
Italy have secured their passage to the next round with a game to spare following a 2-1 victory over Austria in the City Calling Stadium on Tuesday evening.
It was one way traffic for the majority of the first half with Italy dominating the play through their captain Simone Panada running the game at his own pace. Austria had no objections to the Italians and kept a deep line throughout the half.
It took Italy 10 minutes to break down the Austrian defence with a world class bit of individual skill from Sebastiano Esposito, who waltzed his way through the back line and forced an equally magnificent save from Austria shot stopper Nikolas Polster.
Esposito was pivotal in the opportunities Italy created throughout the half as he played a perfectly timed ball through to Nicholas Bonfanti who just couldn’t manage to sort his feet out.
Austria managed to register their best chance after Bernhard Zimmermann linked up with Thierno Ballo in the midfield to create space out wide for Felix Köchl who rocketed the ball inches over the bar.
It was all Italy from this point onwards with Bonfanti coming close on multiple occasions only to be denied by Polster in the Austrian goal. Polster, moments later, was unlucky when he came out for a 50-50 challenge just inside the box as he took down Esposito after he was fed a ball in by Franco Tongya. Esposito stepped up and converted straight down the middle to hand Italy a well deserved lead.
A terrifically worked counter attack by Esposito and Nicolò Cudrig almost led to a second with Cudrig swinging the ball in onto Esposito’s head but with a piece of great goalkeeping Polster managed to tap the ball over for a corner.
Italy continued to dominate after the break with Esposito and Bonfanti continually causing great trouble for the Austrian defence after Panada moves the ball towards the Austrian goal.
The young Italian skipper Panada got his time to shine when he took on the Austrian defence who all backed off and let him get a shot off which hit the back of the net with 11 minutes left on the clock which proved to be the goal to bring Italy to the knockout stages.
The boys in blue kept the pressure on Austria for the last few minutes but they would concede late on when a beautiful counter attack from the Austrians, with Benjamin Böckle laying the ball off for Josef Pross, allowed a consolation goal as Pross slide the ball past the Italian keeper with one of the last kicks of the game.
Italy U17: Molla, Francesco Lamanna, Simone Panada, Lorenzo Pirola, Franco Tongya, Sebastiano Esposito, Nicoló Cudrig (Matteo Ruggeri 78), Iyenoma Destiny Udoige, Michael Bretan, Christian Dalle Mura, Nicholas Bonfanti (Nikola Sekulov 65)
Subs Not Used: Manuel Gasparini, Lorenzo Moretti, Lorenzo Colombo, Niccolò Squizzato, Alessandro Pio Riccio, Alessandro Arlotti, Samuel Giovane
Yellow Cards: None
Austria U17: Nikolas Polster, Felix Köchl, Simon Nelson, Paul-Friedrich Koller, Nicolas Zdichynec (Josef Pross 70), Matthias Braunöder, Thierno Ballo, Benjamin Böckle, Bernhard Zimmermann, Manuel Polster (Deniz Pehlivan 70), Pierre Nagler (Armand Smrcka 82)
Subs not used: Philipp Jorganovic, Julian Selmeister, Stefan Radulovic, Johannes Schriebl, Berkay Dogan, Kevin Sostarits
Yellow Cards: Paul-Friedrich Koller (78)
Referee: Jørgen Burchardt (DEN)
Attendance: 623 (Official)
Extratime.ie man of th match: Sebastiano Esposito (Italy)