Italy extended their lead at the top of UEFA 2020 European Championship qualifying Group J to six points on Thursday, when they recovered from a goal down to beat Armenia 3-1.
The hosts initially stunned the Azzurri at Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, as they took an 11th-minute lead through Alexander Karapetyan. Andrea Belotti eventually equalised for Italy in the 28th minute, before Karapetyan went from hero to zero, when he was sent off after a second yellow in first-half stoppage time.
Despite their man advantage, Italy were second best for much of the second period. Armenia were unable to take their chances, though, and the visitors went ahead through Lorenzo Pellegrini's header 13 minutes from time.
Italy made the game safe a couple of minutes later, as Belotti's shot deflected off the post, onto the back of Armenia goalkeeper Arsen Beglaryan and into the back of the net.
Italy had plenty of the ball in the opening stages of the game, although they were sloppy in the way they used their possession.
In the 11th minute, Armenia picked them off and were able to spring into a fantastic counter-attack to take the lead. At the end of a sweeping move, it was Karapetyan who was able to apply the finishing touch:
With the atmosphere up among the home supporters, it took Italy some time to get back into their stride following that opener. Early frustration was beginning to creep into their play too, with Marco Verratti picking up a yellow card that'll see him suspended for the upcoming Finland clash.
When the pact slowed the quality of Italy did begin to shine through and it was Belotti who was the main beneficiary, as he was alert at the back post to sweep home an excellent cross from Emerson.
Rahman Osman of the Daily Mirror commented on the fine form being showcased by Emerson so far this term:
Having acquitted themselves well in the first half, Armenia's task was made all the more challenging on the brink of the interval, when Karapetyan was given his marching orders for lashing out at Leonardo Bonucci.
Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports thought the dismissal was a harsh one for the Armenia goalscorer:
In the early stages of the second half, it was actually Armenia who carried the greater threat, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan posing numerous issues for the Azzurri on the counter.
At the other end, Italy toiled in their attempts to find a way through the 10 men, with Roberto Mancini calling on Pellegrini and Stefano Sensi from the bench to swing the game back in their favour. With the clock ticking down, it was the former who made the difference.
Bonucci produced a fine cross from the right flank and Pellegrini timed his run into the penalty area perfectly, steering home a header from close range.
At this point, Armenian shoulders were slumped and a stroke of misfortunate a couple of minutes later killed off any slender hopes they had of taking a point.
Belotti was able to wriggle free in the penalty area before slamming his shot onto the post; unfortunately for the home side, it ricocheted off Beglaryan's head and over the line, giving the visitors a crucial two-goal advantage.
Both teams are in action again on Sunday. Italy take on Finland away from home. After impressing in spells on Thursday, Armenia will be back in action in front of their own supporters against Bosnia-Herzegovina.