Faroe Islands 0 Italy 1
Antonio Cassano scored the only goal for Italy tonight at the Faroe Islands as they moved a step closer to qualifying for the 2012 European Championships.
Cassano struck in the 11th minute in Torshavn as the Azzurri remained unbeaten in Group C.
The hosts were unlucky not to equalise in the 71st minute when Christian Holst’s effort rebounded off the crossbar with Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon beaten.
The result has placed Cesare Prandelli’s Italy eight points clear of nearest rivals Slovenia in the pool with three games remaining.
Slovenia lost 2-1 at home to Estonia and will travel to Florence on Tuesday to take on Italy.
Prandelli had called on his players to focus ahead of this game, with most of them lacking match practice, and his cause for concern was evident with Italy failing to produce much excitement
The Serie A start was postponed last weekend due to the failure of the players and Lega Serie A to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
Prandelli fielded Giuseppe Rossi and Cassano in attack and his selection paid dividends.
Italy were first to threaten in the sixth minute, when Riccardo Montolivo set up Cassano inside the area and the AC Milan striker’s right-footed shot went wide.
Italy continued to press forward and went in front soon afterwards. Andrea Pirlo found Cassano inside the six-yard box and he fired past Faroe Islands goalkeeper Rene Torgard.
The hosts’ first attempt saw Joan Edmundsson’s right-footed strike deflected away by a defender.
But they almost pulled level in the 24th minute with Suni Olsen’s 30-yard effort hitting the post.
In the 34th minute, Daniele De Rossi’s powerful strike from 30 yards was punched away by Torgard.
Shortly after, Rossi wasted a good chance with his effort going wide.
Italy almost doubled their lead before the break but Domenico Criscito’s left-footed strike from the edge of the area was saved by Torgard.
Prandelli made his first substitution on the hour mark, with Pazzini replacing Rossi.
The Inter Milan forward almost made an immediate impact but his header from Christian Maggio’s cross was easy for Edmundsson to gather.
The hosts were unlucky again not to equalise when a fast counter-attack saw Hjalgrim Elttor feed Holst in the heart of the area and his right-footed shot struck the crossbar.
Shortly after, Pol Johannes Justinussen’s header was saved by Buffon.
With five minutes remaining, Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli replaced Cassano and his strike from the edge of the area was cleared by a defender.
Italy held on for three vital points.