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Albania 1-3 Italy: Grifo double sinks hosts
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Vincenzo Grifo played a part in all three of Italy's goals
Vincenzo Grifo played a part in all three of Italy's goals

A Vincenzo Grifo double and a Giovanni Di Lorenzo strike gave Italy a 3-1 comeback friendly victory over Albania in Tirana on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini's men will not be at the World Cup in Qatar after a play-off defeat to North Macedonia and they looked on course for another embarrassing loss here as Ardian Ismajli nodded Albania in front.

But Italy hit back almost immediately through Di Lorenzo, before Grifo added goals either side of half-time to secure victory.

It is now three straight wins for the European champions since their humiliating 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Germany in June, as they look to bounce back from their World Cup disappointment.

Italy started brightly but they fell behind when Ismajli rose highest to meet Nedim Bajrami's free-kick, sending a sublime header crashing into the top right corner.

Albania's lead lasted just four minutes, as Grifo's pinpoint cross picked out Di Lorenzo in the middle to side-foot home.

Creator turned finisher for Italy's second, Giacomo Raspadori squaring for Grifo before the Freiburg man smashed superbly past Etrit Berisha to make it 2-1.

Nicolo Zaniolo hit the base of the post in first-half injury time as Italy looked to build their lead, though Albania clung on to get into the break just a goal behind.

Marash Kumbulla's header shortly after the interval tested Alex Meret, while Grifo nearly scored his second when he lashed the underside of the crossbar.

Albania then hit the woodwork twice themselves, Myrto Uzuni's looping effort beating Meret but not the upper frame of the goal before Bajrami saw a shot deflected onto the bar.

Grifo made it 3-1 after 64 minutes, controlling a cross and dispatching into the far corner to round off the scoring and cap his sensational display.

What does it mean? Mancini's side somewhat back to their best

Italy looked more like the team who were so impressive on their way to Euro 2020 glory, as they overcame going a goal behind to cruise to victory.

Italy held 66.1 per cent of the possession and finished with 2.27 xG (expected goals) to Albania's 1.16, while they could have added to their three-goal tally if not for hitting the woodwork twice.

Glorious Grifo

Grifo scored a hat-trick at the weekend for Freiburg and he was in spectacular form again here, this time for his national team.

The 29-year-old had a hand in all three of Italy's goals, scoring twice and adding a lovely assist for Di Lorenzo, while he narrowly missed out on a second consecutive treble when his arrowed effort crashed off the bar.

Tonali suffers nasty-looking injury

Sandro Tonali, a key man for both Italy and Milan, was taken off on a stretcher in the late stages of the first half with what appeared a serious injury.

In jumping for an aerial ball, he toppled over an Albanian player, landing awkwardly before being forced off. He had played well up to that point, completing 22 of his 26 passes and helping Italy from 1-0 down to 2-1 up.

What's next?

Both teams are in friendly action this weekend, with Albania hosting Armenia on Saturday while Italy face Austria the following day.


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