Italy U21 2-0 Denmark U21: Pellegrini fires the Azzurini into the perfect start

Luigi Di Biagio's Italian young guns blew past a stern Denmark to keep the pace with Group C rivals Germany in U21 Euro opener.

Italy U21 2-0 Denmark U21: Pellegrini fires the Azzurini into the perfect start
Photo: Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Denmark
Italy
Denmark: Hojbjerg; Holst, Banggaard, Maxso, Blaabjerg; Hjulsager, Norgaard, Christensen, Borsting (Duelung, min.79); Andersen (Hansen, min.79), Ingvartsen (Zohore, min.72).
Italy: Donnarumma; Conti, Rugani, Caldara, Barreca; Pellegrini, Gagliardini, Benassi (Grassi, min.72); Berardi (Chiesa, min. 65), Petagna (Cerri, min.88), Bernardeschi.
SCORE: 0-1, min. 53, Pellegrini. 0-1, min. 86, Petagna.
REFEREE: Ivan Kruzliak (SVK). Booked: Norgaard (min. 26), Holst (min. 83).
INCIDENTS: Under-21 European Championships Group C opening game, Played at the Stadion MKS Cracovia in Krakow.

Italy ran out comfortable winners against Denmark in the Group C opener of the Under-21 European Championships thanks to goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini and Andrea Petagna

Ever-present full-backs Azzurini's main avenue of attack

With how the tournament format is set out, Italy knew they needed to start off with a win against Denmark to catch pace-setters Germany who breezed past the Czech Republic earlier in the day.

Denmark, who together with England held the joint best defensive record through their unbeaten qualifying campaign, set up in two banks of four to frustrate Luigi Di Biagio's side. 

But despite their sternness, they couldn't deal with Italy's bombing full-backs. 

Whether it was Andrea Conti overlapping the in-drifting Domenico Berardi down the right-hand side or Antonio Barreca's crossing masterclass down the left-hand side, the ever-present full-backs of the Azzurini were the main avenue of attack during the first half. 

And on the 28th minute, Atalanta's Conti was inches from opening the scoring. The move started with Barreca, who had been proving a threat with his long-throws also. His out-swinging cross evaded a packed box before it found Conti in space at the back post but the 23-year-old's strike hammered the wrong side of the netting. 

Pellegrini's acrobatics breaks down the Danish doors

Just eight minutes after the second half began, Sassuolo's Pellegrini opened the scoring in emphatic fashion. 

Italy had cycled the ball across the pitch, displacing the Danish back four as they had done all game, before star man Federico Bernardeschi found himself in space on the edge of the box. His lofted cross was nodded down into a teasing position for Pellegrini before the 20-year-old set himself up for a decisive overhead kick which left the opposing goalkeeper Jeppe Hojbjerg helpless. 

Niels Frederiksen's red and white outfit responded well to the goal but Italy's cohesive defensive work proved enough protection for Gianluigi Donnarumma

The teenager had a mostly quiet game but 15 minutes from time, the 6ft 5" Milanese goalkeeper was forced into action as he matched Celta Vigo's Andrew Hjulsager's low strike. 

Then 10 minutes later, Italy doubled their lead thanks to Petagna's tenacity from close range. Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa, who was a breath of fresh air since he replaced Berardi, stood up his opposing full-back on the left-hand side before whipping a perfect cross onto the stretching boot of Petagna who couldn't miss the goal from three yards out. 

Di Biagio's cream of the crop proves worthwhile as Italy win opener

The Under-21 European Championships has proven a hotbed of future footballing talents in the past, with the likes of Francesco Totti and Gianluigi Buffon benefiting from expressing themselves in the youth ranks. 

Italy first-team manager Gian Piero Ventura, who was in attendance for tonight's match and has already promised his presence at the final, has gifted Di Biagio with the strongest possible squad. 

Donnarumma and Bernardeschi had featured in the Azzuri's international break just days before travelling out to Poland with the under-21 side. 

But that's not the case for all the competing nations. England have come under some criticism for leaving hot prospects Marcus Rashford and Dele Alli at home to relax. 

The Premier League pair would have relished a chance to impress against other European young guns. 

International Football