Italy 1-1 Bulgaria: Azzurri go 35 unbeaten to equal record

By Sports Desk September 02, 2021

Italy extended their unbeaten run to a record-equalling 35 games despite being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in Florence on Thursday. 

European champions Italy, who last lost a game in September 2018, matched the mark set by Spain and Brazil despite being far from their best in the Group C clash - their first outing since overcoming England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final. 

Federico Chiesa gave Roberto Mancini’s men the lead with a powerful finish in the 16th minute, but Atanas Iliev restored parity before half-time. 

Although Italy were unable to find a winner and maintain their 100 per cent start in Group C, they can still make history by avoiding defeat away to Switzerland in their next qualifier on Sunday. 

Lorenzo Insigne had a great chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute but, after being played in by a fortunate ricochet, he was unable to guide his shot past Georgi Georgiev. 

After Kiril Despodov missed the target with Bulgaria’s first decent effort, Chiesa dribbled in off the right and lashed an excellent drive into the bottom-right corner to put Italy in front. 

Georgiev did well to keep out a powerful attempt from Ciro Immobile and Bulgaria surprisingly equalised in the 39th minute when Iliev got in front of Francesco Acerbi to turn home Despodov’s pass. 

Insigne failed to take another good opening before half-time, while Immobile rounded Georgiev but was unable to convert from a tight angle three minutes after the restart. 

Italy were back on top but a strong hand from Georgiev stopped Chiesa clipping home a second after spinning away from his marker in the 62nd minute. 

The Bulgaria keeper made another fine stop to thwart Immobile from close range and the Azzurri had to settle for a point.

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    Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri has insisted he is "not worried" about Angel Di Maria after the Argentine limped off against Sassuolo.

    Di Maria opened the scoring on his debut and provided an assist for Dusan Vlahovic in the 3-0 triumph, where the striker also won and converted a penalty.

    After a slow start, it was largely plain sailing for Juventus after Di Maria's debut goal, but concern was raised after the former Paris Saint-Germain ace limped off in the second half with a suspected adductor injury.

    Juventus also saw Denis Zakaria pick up an injury during the match, but Allegri insisted that he was not concerned about the prospective setbacks.

    "I am not worried. We'll see what the tests say tomorrow," he told DAZN.

    "Unfortunately, these things happen in football. He had this adductor issue a week ago too, perhaps I should've taken him off when we were 3-0 up, but he was enjoying himself out there. 

    "Zakaria just had a cramp, nothing more. The important thing is that we won a game that we really wanted to win, which was by no means simple."

    Juventus' may make further additions before the close of the transfer window on September 1, with Di Maria's compatriot and former PSG teammate Leandro Paredes heavily touted to make a move to Turin.

    The midfielder was shown on social media to be following the game but Allegri played down the significance.

    "They are friends, both from Argentina, so that's natural. I don't know if they can play together, I have to work with the players at my disposal," he added.

    "The club has done well, we lost important players and brought in good replacements."

  • Vlahovic hails 'extraordinary' Di Maria and insists there is more to come from Juventus Vlahovic hails 'extraordinary' Di Maria and insists there is more to come from Juventus

    Dusan Vlahovic expressed his delight at the opportunity to play with Angel Di Maria, as the two combined to inspire Juventus to a 3-0 win against Sassuolo.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain star opened the deadlock with a bouncing volley and teed up Vlahovic in the second half, which came either side of the Serbian winning and converting a penalty.

    Sterner tests will await for Juventus this season, particularly when their Champions League campaign begins next month, but the performance from the two attackers will provide encouragement after last season's frustrations.

    Di Maria's creativity is likely to add further opportunities for Vlahovic to extend his excellent record for Juventus, and he took the opportunity after the win to praise his new teammate.

    "It's an incredible sensation to play with Di Maria, it's so pleasing to work with such champions and I thank him for the assist. He had an extraordinary game," he told DAZN.

    Di Maria was not the only debutant to feature, with Bremer also starting and Filip Kostic introduced off the bench in the second half, with Vlahovic clear there is more to come from the side.

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