Italy defeated Belgium 2-0 in the most anticipated match of Group E on Monday night.
Belgium kicked off their European Championship campaign against 1968 winners Italy as Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon played in his 157th game for his country.
Head-to-head encounters in the European Championships between the sides have been evenly matched, with both Italy and Belgium securing two wins while playing to two goalless draws.
Starting with lone striker Romelu Lukaku up front, Belgium created the first chance of the match when Lukaku pulled away down the right before firing a low cross into the penalty area, only for defender Andrea Barzagli to clear the ball away from danger.
Both sides looked evenly matched during the opening stages of the match.
The first real chance of the match came in the 11th minute when Radja Nainggolan saw his shot heading towards the bottom corner turned away for a Belgium corner by Buffon.
Belgium dominated the early exchanges, but there were no clear-cut chances, as Belgium had a number of efforts blocked.
Kevin De Bruyne then had a chance for Belgium but his pass cannot find Lukaku. Belgium got a second opportunity though as Eden Hazard picks up the loose ball. The Chelsea forward picks out Lukaku on the left, but the Everton striker’s cross was cut out.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 32nd minute when Leonardo Bonucci’s defence-splitting pass evades the head of Toby Alderweireld and found Emanuele Giaccherini in the penalty area. The Sunderland midfielder took a touch on the ball before powering the ball past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.
Five minutes later Italy should’ve doubled their lead when Pelle roses the highest to good power on his header but could only steer the ball wide of the far post.
In the space of two minutes De Bruyne saw both his efforts block by Giorgio Chiellini and Antonio Candreva.
The second half began with Italy picking up where they left off in the first-half putting pressure on the Belgium defence.
54 minutes into the match, Belgium should’ve drawn level when Manchester City’s De Bruyne released Lukaku through on goal but the striker lifted the ball over the on-rushing Buffon and wide of the target.
Italy immediately responded when Graziano Pelle’s headed effort towards the bottom corner forced the Belgium goalkeeper into making a diving save, pushing the ball away from goal.
Belgium had another chance in the 82nd minute to level matters, but substitute Divock Origi gets to much on his header and guides the ball over the crossbar.
With Belgium pushing for the equaliser, Italy secured their victory in the 93rd minute of injury time when Candreva picked out Pelle at the far post, and the Southampton forward smashed home Italy’s second.