Mario Ballotelli goal seals Italy victory

DAVID LJUNGGREN
Last updated 12:17 15/06/2014
Steven Gerrard
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Steven Gerrard of England looks on after a 0-0 draw with England in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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Italy striker Mario Balotelli powered home a close range header to secure a 2-1 win over England today in an entertaining World Cup Group D game played amid baking heat and humidity.

Balotelli peeled away from left back Leighton Baines to meet Antonio Candreva's cross from the right to head home in the 50th minute.

Claudio Marchisio had fired Italy ahead after 35 minutes in the jungle atmosphere of Manaus, where the temperature was 30 celsiusat kick-off, but Daniel Sturridge quickly levelled.

England, full of attacking intent, pushed for an equaliser after the break but could not find a way past back-up keeper Salvatore Sirigu, deputising for the injured Gianluigi Buffon.

Andrea Pirlo almost made it 3-1 in second half injury time but his swirling 30-metre free kick crashed against the bar.

With Costa Rica beating Uruguay 3-1 in the earlier game in the group, England captain Steven Gerrard said his side must win their clash with the beaten South Americans on Thursday.

''No matter what the result were tonight we'd need to beat Uruguay on Thursday. It's certainly doable,'' he told the BBC.

''It was a tough night. It was warm, sticky - it was a tough pitch - it was dry. But they're excuses. Italy were very good.

''They caused us a lot of problems down our left-hand side in the first half but we made tweaks at half-time and dealt with it better. We played most of the second half in their half.''

Manager Roy Hodgson added: ''The players gave everything they could possibly give. We now have to lift our heads and prepare for the next game.''

Both sides looked dangerous from the first whistle but it was Italy who took the lead after a cleverly worked short corner.

When the ball was played into Pirlo the veteran midfielder let it run under his boot and Marchisio had time to hammer home a 25-metre right foot shot.

England recovered quickly and two minutes later a lovely pass from 19-year-old Raheem Sterling sent Wayne Rooney haring down the left and his curling cross was met by a sweet half-volley from Sturridge.

Italy though came close to scoring again in first half injury time. First, Balotelli chipped the ball over goalkeeper Joe Hart only for Phil Jagielka to head it off the line.

Seconds later a clever pass found Candreva alone in the area but he crashed his shot against Joe Hart's right post.

Sirigu was in good form in the second half, palming away fierce shots from Danny Welbeck and Ross Barkley as well as a free kick from Baines.

 

 

 

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- Reuters

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