It took a Ciro Immobile header for Italy to see off Israel, despite the Azzurri dominating from start to finish at the Mapei Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Immobile converted from an excellent Antonio Candreva cross in the second half, but the three points should have come more comfortably in a game that Giampiero Ventura’s side were on top in throughout.
The Azzurri came close within a minute of kick off through Andrea Belotti. Il Gallo found space on the edge of the Israel box after being picked out by Matteo Darmian, but his effort was off target.
There was cause for concern for Ventura when, on 20 minutes, Gianluigi Buffon left his goal to pick up on a loose ball while Davide Astori attempted to guide it back to his goalkeeper. Astori’s knee collided with the goalkeeper’s head but fortunately he was able to continue.
Italy then had Andrea Conti to thank for not falling behind; the AC Milan defender pulled off an inch-perfect sliding tackle to dispossess Marwan Kabha as he looked set to pull the trigger. Anything other than a clean challenge could have seen Conti dismissed and the visitors awarded a penalty.
Israel were unlucky not to lead before the break. Buffon, first, saved Italy with a fine save to deny Almog Cohen, who would be frustrated again within moments. Soon after, Cohen had the ball in the net after thumping beyond the veteran goalkeeper, only to be thwarted by the offside flag.
It did not take long after the second half got underway for the Azzurri to take the lead that their dominance warranted. Antonio Candreva did will to get to the byline before dropping a perfect cross onto Immobile’s head at the back post, allowing the Lazio striker to emphatically head home.
Candreva continued to be Italy’s main attacking threat as the second half wore on. Another pinpoint cross found Immobile’s striker partner, Belotti, whose downward header could not find the back of the net.
The Inter winger then created another chance for Belotti but the Torino striker’s night of frustration only intensified as he saw his effort saved by Ariel Harush.
Italy continued to dominate possession, with little more chances to follow as the game drew to a close, leaving the Azzurri to pick up a much needed three points to bounce back from the Bernabeu humiliation.