Italy easily defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in Bari on Thursday, as the hosts took advantage of an early red card for Bruno Martins Indi to give Antonio Conte the win in his debut as manager of the Azzurri.
The hosts had taken the lead after just three minutes through Ciro Immobile before Martins Indi committed a (light) foul inside the box, and the official not only pointed to the spot but also brandished the red.
Daniele De Rossi converted the penalty, and while the two-goal lead was well deserved, the man advantage effectively killed the match before it even started.
The Italians started on fire, and the duo of Immobile and Simone Zaza looked lively from the very start. Immobile connected on a long ball and dribbled past Jasper Cillessen, who really should have done better, before shooting into the unoccupied net. Here's the Vine, via Footy Vines:
Goal!! Immobile rounds the keeper to give Italy the lead vs Holland. https://t.co/tYJzrhhn7B— Footy Vines.com (@Footy_Vines_) September 4, 2014
Zaza was a menace for the Dutch defence, which seemed to be half asleep in the first half, and it was no wonder the debutant caused the penalty that led to the 2-0 result. While Martins Indi certainly committed a foul, there was no need for a red card for the offence, particularly in a friendly. 101 Great Goals has the Vine:
Bruno Martins Indi sent off in 9th minute v Italy for silly push! https://t.co/RuAPVbEN1t— 101 Great Goals (@102greatgoals) September 4, 2014
As shared by WhoScored.com, the fast start from the Azzurri stood in stark contrast to their performances at the 2014 World Cup:
Italy: Have scored as many goals (2) in 10 minutes vs Netherlands as they had in the whole of World Cup 2014 #itaned— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 4, 2014
Joel Veltman was brought in to shore up the Dutch defence, and while Oranje soon took control of possession, the best chances were for the hosts. Zaza threatened several times and really deserved a goal for his performance, while Robin van Persie came closest to scoring for the visitors.
Italy made a plethora of substitutions in the second half, taking all of the pace out of the match. Mattia Destro nearly scored with 10 minutes left on the clock, but his header failed to hit the target.
The hosts looked very strong on Conte's debut, but obviously, they were aided by the early dismissal. Goal.com's Carlo Garganese was still impressed:
Great debut for Conte. Can see influence already. 1. Italians never care about friendlies...2. Italians hate pressing ... changing mentality— Carlo Garganese (@carlogarganese) September 4, 2014
BeIN Sports' Matteo Bonetti saw the same thing:
Antonio Conte screamed "Leo, Leo, Leo passala a Ciro" before Bonucci found Immobile for first goal. Coaching difference.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) September 4, 2014
He was also impressed with Zaza:
Simone Zaza.... Get used to seeing this name regularly for Italy.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) September 4, 2014
Dutch Football was disappointed with the play from the visitors:
Very disjointed performance by Netherlands. No pace in the defence, and no pace in the attack. Nothing for Sneijder to build on.— Dutch Football (@football_oranje) September 4, 2014
Conte told Rai Sport (h/t Football Italia) he believes the squad is on the right track:
Aside from the result, I was interested in seeing the response from the lads and it was certainly positive in terms of effort, aggression and the ideas of football we want to bring forward.
These players are at my disposal and want to do well, but we’ve been working together for only four days. Games like this give us confidence, enthusiasm and even more credibility going forward with this project.
We are on right track. We had six pretty intense training sessions on a tactical level and I am happy, as the lads worked hard and were eager to get stuck in.There are mature players here and also youngsters who can become great champions. There is a very long way to go, but as I always say winning helps you to win.
Guus Hiddink was upset with his defence's performance in the opening 10 minutes, as his team truly made the worst start possible, as shared by Dutch Football:
Guus Hiddink, 'Over the first ten minutes, I am angry."— Dutch Football (@football_oranje) September 4, 2014
Hiddink, "When the game was over. We could not hurt Italy, but just limit the damage,"— Dutch Football (@football_oranje) September 4, 2014
While the Italians will no doubt have plenty of reasons to be excited by the team's performance under Conte, neither manager will learn much from a fixture that lost much of its flow with the red card for Martins Indi.
The Italians will face the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers with plenty of confidence, but the Dutch will find little reason not to do the same.