Francesco Caputo scored on his Italy debut as Roberto Mancini’s side extended their unbeaten run to 17 matches, recording a resounding 6-0 win over Moldova at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Sassuolo forward Caputo was named in an experimental line-up – one devoid of any Napoli or Juventus players due to coronavirus restrictions – and made his mark in a dominant first half for the hosts in Florence.
Italy registered five goals in the opening 45 minutes for the third time in their history, Stephan El Shaarawy netting twice – either side of Veaceslav Posmac’s own goal – after Bryan Cristante had opened the scoring.
Domenico Berardi scored the only goal of a quieter second half as Italy hit their stride ahead of important Nations League games against Poland and the Netherlands.
After Salvatore Sirigu had produced a good save to deny Ion Nicolaescu, Cristante opened the scoring with a glancing header at the near post.
Moldova are 163 places below their opponents in the FIFA rankings and that gap was made clear when Caputo coolly converted, having been played clean through by Cristiano Biraghi.
El Shaarawy controlled Cristante’s pass and flicked it past Alexei Koselev for the third goal and Posmac – in an attempt to clear the ball – booted into his own net for the fourth.
Captain for the day, El Shaarawy had his second just before half-time, getting the final touch to the ball close to the line after Manuel Lazzari had lifted it over the onrushing Koselev.
Italy took their foot off the gas in the second half, not helped by a plethora of substitutions, but Berardi added another 18 minutes from time with a close-range finish after being teed up by Vincenzo Grifo.
What does it mean? Much-changed Azzurri win again
Mancini stressed ahead of this game the importance of his side keeping their momentum going into their Nations League double-header.
Despite naming an entirely new line-up, Italy showed no mercy against hapless Moldova, making it 14 wins and three draws in their last 17 games. They had 70 per cent of the ball and managed 19 shots in total, 12 of those coming in the first half.
Caputo has scored three goals in as many games for Sassuolo in Serie A this term and was rewarded with this maiden cap at the age of 33.
He made the most of his chance in the first half, taking Biraghi’s pass in his stride and picking his spot past Koselev, scoring from his only attempt on target of the contest.
Caputo may well have had a second goal if not for Moldova centre-back Posmac, who scored a comical own goal from one of his 39 touches of the ball.
Posmac presumably tried to smash the ball over the crossbar after Caputo had brought it under control in the box, but he instead emphatically picked out the back of his own net.
Both sides return to Nations League action on Sunday in the third round of fixtures. Italy travel to Poland, while Moldova are away to Greece.
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