Italy brushed off the absences of several players and coach Roberto Mancini with an impressive 2-0 victory over a toothless Poland outfit on Sunday to close in on a UEFA Nations League finals place.
The Azzurri took top spot in Group A1 from the Netherlands, who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier in the day, by seeing off previous table-toppers Poland in Reggio Emilia.
Italy will be sure of a place in next October’s finals with victory over the Bosnians in Sarajevo on Wednesday.
Assistant coach Alberico Evani was again in charge for Italy, with Mancini watching from home after testing positive for coronavirus.
An original 41-man Italy squad for this international break had already been whittled down to 28, due to injuries, as well as positive and inconclusive Covid-19 tests.
In total, 20 players who may have been in contention to play were unavailable.
After a cagey start to the game, Grzegorz Krychowiak bundled Andrea Belotti to the ground at a set-piece to concede a penalty.
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho stepped up to send goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way with his trademark hop, despite having missed two spot-kicks for his club this season.
Belotti wasted a good chance to double the Italian advantage, volleying Lorenzo Insigne’s dinked free-kick over the crossbar.
Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who has already scored 15 goals this season for club and country, cut a frustrated figure for Poland, only making an impact when he appeared to elbow Alessandro Bastoni and was perhaps fortunate VAR was not being used.
Poland barely seemed interested in even trying to find an equaliser, not managing a single shot on target in the match.
Their task was made harder in the 77th minute when Jacek Goralski was given a second yellow card for bringing down Belotti.
Italy finally scored the second goal they deserved with six minutes remaining after a lovely passing move, with Domenico Berardi firing in from Insigne’s pass.