GENOA, Italy (AFP) – A virtual second-choice Italy side laboured to a narrow 1-0 win over Albania in an international friendly in Genoa on Tuesday.
The winning goal even had a touch of fortune about it as Hamdi Salihi diverted Stefano Okaka’s shot past goalkeeper Etrit Berisha with seven minutes left.
On his debut, Okaka, a second-half substitute for Sebastian Giovinco, was a rare bright spark for Italy.
For Albania, it was a case of so near and yet so far, just a few days after holding France to a 1-1 draw.
Centre-back Leonardo Bonucci, captain for the night, was the only player to keep his place in Antonio Conte’s Italy side from the line-up held to a 1-1 draw by Croatia in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Sunday.
Okaka wasn’t the only Italian debutant as Torino defender Emiliano Moretti and Genoa midfielder Andrea Bertolacci also made their international bows.
Conte, who took over the top job after the World Cup, was defiant after the game as his side came under renewed criticism.
“It’s a difficult moment for Italy but in six matches we’ve won five and drawn one,” he told Rai 1.