Milan: Inspiring Mario Balotteli scored one and set up another goal as a 10-man Italy beat Denmark 3-1 at home here.
Italy seemed to have the win secured after they scored two goals in a space of five first-half minutes from Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi Tuesday. Although, Denmark got a goal back in first-half injury time through William Kvist Jorgensen, reports Xinhua.
But things looked tricky with just 18 seconds into the second half, as Italy's Pablo Osvaldo was shown the red card for violent conduct after an incident involving Denmark's Nicolai Stokholm.
However, Cesare Prandelli's team, largely unimpressive in their World Cup qualifying campaign so far, did not let that throw them off their stride as Balotelli - making his first appearance for Italy since Euro 2012 - fired in a third in the 54th minute.
"I hoped to win this match. Denmark scored just before the break and things got rather complicated, but it was good to score tonight," Balotelli said.
"Both with Italy and Manchester City, I have always put the effort in and am improving in terms of my work rate. I have had this humility for a while and can continue to have it without problems," he added.
Montolivo sang high praise for the striker.
"I think in the second half when we were down to 10 men, Balotelli was magnificent. He was the entire front line, holding up the ball, running on to passes and keeping the defenders busy," he said.
"He worked so hard for the team. If this is the real Balotelli, then we've got a great future ahead of us."
The Milan midfielder opened the scoring for Italy after meeting a pass from Balotelli in the 33rd minute. Four minutes later, Denmark had barely recovered from that when it became two with Andrea Pirlo crossing for de Rossi to head in from close range.
Denmark twice threatened in quick succession with Lars Jacobsen shooting over and Dennis Rommedahl sending an effort narrowly wide before they got their goal, Kvist Jorgensen finishing from the edge of the area after being picked out by Jacobsen.
Given their recent shaky form, Osvaldo's red card might have rattled Italy when it came so soon in the second half but instead they pulled further clear with Pirlo teeing up Balotelli to fire a shot low into the net in the 54th minute.
The win sees Italy move four points clear of Bulgaria at the top of Group B although third-placed Czech Republic, five points back, have a game in hand.
Denmark are in trouble with only two points from three matches.
Story first published on: Wednesday, 17 October 2012 14:58 IST