2022 World Cup qualifiers: Belotti and Locatelli earn Italy win in Bulgaria

Italy will aim to continue its 100 per cent start on Wednesday when it travels to Lithuania while Bulgaria, which has now lost its first two matches, visits Northern Ireland next.

Italy's Manuel Locatelli reacts after scoring against Bulgaria during the World Cup 2022 Group C qualifying match between Bulgaria and Italy.   -  AP

Italy's Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli secured a 2-0 win over Bulgaria on Sunday to make it two wins from two in Group C at the start of their side's 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Italy struggled to break down the host in the first half despite dominating possession but took the lead with a penalty won and converted by Belotti two minutes before the break.

There were few second-half chances, but the visitor put the seal on a fifth successive win - without conceding in that run - eight minutes from time thanks to Locatelli's fine finish.

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Italy will aim to continue its 100 per cent start on Wednesday when it travels to Lithuania while Bulgaria, which has now lost its first two matches, visits Northern Ireland next.

"There are no easy games," said Italy coach Roberto Mancini. "We always think we can win but knowing there are opponents who get everyone behind the ball, we have to be careful. The opponent played to not lose, and playing away from home is tough too."

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In the group's other match, Xherdan Shaqiri's early goal gave Switzerland a 1-0 win over Lithuania to move it level on six points with Italy but trailing on goal difference.

The Italians, looking to build on a 2-0 win over visitor Northern Ireland in their Group C opener last Thursday and stretch their unbeaten run to 24 matches under Mancini, looked laboured in the attack early on in Sofia.

The host was easily dealing with Italy before one lunge on Italy's Torino striker Belotti by Daniel Dimov undid the Bulgarians' defensive work, giving the visitor the chance to snatch the lead from the spot.

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The Azzurri defence, like the Italian backlines of yesteryear, never looked troubled after Belotti's opener. They have now kept six clean sheets in a row away from home, their longest such run in history.

Sassuolo midfielder Locatelli's game-clinching strike is one he will remember as his first for his country and the quality of the finish - a curling strike into the far corner.