World Cup qualifying: Armenia 1 Italy 3
By Football News
Italy have claimed a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Armenia during their World Cup qualifier at the Hrazdan Stadium on Friday night.
The scoreline may have flattered the Azzurri, however, as they were given a serious run for their money by Armenia who were level at the break after Henrick Mkhitaryam cancelled out Andrea Pirlo's opener.
But second-half goals from Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo ensured Italy took maximum points as they remain unbeaten in World Cup qualifying so far, topping the Group B table.
Italy found themselves ahead after only 11 minutes, as Hrayr Mkoyan's handball in the box was spotted, giving Pirlo the chance to step up and send Roman Berezovskiy the wrong way from the spot.
But what threatened to be a walk in the park for the visitors never materialised as Armenia fought their way back creating chances through Aras Ozbiliz and Artak Yedigaryan.
Armenia's endeavour was rewarded in the 27th minute as they drew level following an Italian defensive mix-up.
As Christian Maggio failed to clear effectively, Shakhtar midfielder Mkhitaryam pounced on the ball and beat Andrea Barzagli's challenge before firing home past Gianluigi Buffon.
Armenia pressed for a second but Italy gradually regained their poise and finished the half the stronger side.
But the hosts refused to bow down and stepped up their attack once again following the restart as Yedigaryan saw his goal-bound effort cleared off the line Domonico Criscito.
Buffon was then forced into a quality save as he denied Davit Manoyan before having to block a powerful strike from Yura Movsisyan as the Armenians seriously took the game to their opponents.
But just when it looked like Armenia's pressure would tell once again, De Rossi stepped up to send the Azzurri back in front, completely against the run of play.
Pirlo was the architect, bending a glorious cross right onto the head of the Roma vice-captain, who could hardly miss from six yards out, crashing his header in off the crossbar.
Not long after Yura Movsisyan found himself in a good position to level the scores once again, but some good Italian defensive work prevented him having his chance, with the missed opportunity proving costly for Armenia as Italy doubled their advantage eight minutes from time.
This time De Rossi's free kick was met by Osvaldo, who guided a header expertly into the far corner to give Italy the breathing space they so desperately needed.
The result leaves Armenia with just one win in the qualifying campaign so far.