Norway 0 Italy 2
Simone Zaza scored his first goal for Italy as the Azzurri kicked off their 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Norway.
Striker Zaza – the first ever Sassuolo player to receive an Italy call-up - impressed on his debut in last week’s friendly win over Holland but made a much bigger impact in Oslo.
His powerful finish in the 16th minute of tonight’s Group H encounter gave Antonio Conte’s side the upper hand and Leonardo Bonucci’s second-half header confirmed the outcome at the Ullevaal Stadion.
Italy looked determined from the outset and, after Zaza narrowly missed with a swipe at Matteo Darmian’s hooked pass across the six-yard box, Emanuele Giaccherini thumped the ball into the side netting.
Alessandro Florenzi’s scuffed volley warmed Orjan Haskjold Nyland’s palms in the 14th minute, but the Norway goalkeeper would get nowhere near the ball two minutes later.
Fine build-up play down the left saw Mattia De Sciglio feed Zaza in the D and the Sassuolo forward danced into the box with two touches before slamming home with his left boot.
Norway handled the setback well and almost levelled twice through forward Joshua King.
Firstly, the former Manchester United prospect worked himself into enough space to seriously worry Gianluigi Buffon, with only heavy pressure from Andrea Ranocchia denying him a clean attempt on goal.
Then, just before the half-hour mark, his long-range sighter took a large deflection off Davide Astori and veered over the crossbar with Buffon stranded.
Italy’s response was to push for a second goal to take into the interval, and it was Giaccherini who nearly doubled the visitors’ advantage.
He cut inside to blast straight at Nyland – Ciro Immobile came up short on the spilled ball – and on the stroke of half-time the Sunderland winger let loose a shot that just flew wide of the left-hand post.
The minutes between the restart and the hour mark offered little to cheer about but travelling fans were celebrating once again in the 62nd minute.
Within 60 seconds of replacing Darmian, substitute Manuel Pasqual had stolen down the left wing to pick out Bonucci, the Juventus defender dispatching a bullet header with ease.
Italy’s tails were up again and De Sciglio twice went for glory, first stinging Nyland’s palms with a shot on the slide before loping towards the edge of the box and launching the ball just over the far corner.
Conte looked set to withdraw Zaza for Andrea Poli but changed his mind when the 23-year-old striker stormed behind the Norway backline to rattle the bar with a dipping drive.
He came even closer to converting his brace in the 80th minute when his flicked finish beat Nyland.
Vegard Forren made the latest of goal-line clearances to spare his countrymen from further punishment, but Italy had done enough to secure their first victory on Norwegian soil since 1937.