North Macedonia 1-1 Italy: Azzurri pegged back by Enis Bardhi after Ciro Immobile opener


North Macedonia 1-1 Italy: Azzurri pegged back by Enis Bardhi after Ciro Immobile opener

Italy were held to a 1-1 draw with North Macedonia in Luciano Spelletti’s first match in charge, with Enis Bardhi’s late free kick cancelling out a Ciro Immobile goal.

Sandro Tonali came the closest of anyone to scoring in a goalless first half, but struck the near post after going through on-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Bojan Miovski had North Macedonia’s best chance of the that period, but headed wide after brilliant work from Ezgjan Alioski to win the ball, drive forward and then cross for the Aberdeen striker.

Just two minutes after the break Italy got their breakthrough, with Immobile heading in on the rebound after Nicolo Barela hit the bar.

The Azzurri did not kick on though, North Macedonia always carried a threat and Bardhi scored an excellent equaliser on 81 minutes, curling a fierce free kick beyond Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The draw means Italy have four points from three games in Group C of Euro 2024 qualification, three points behind Ukraine who they play in Milan on Tuesday. North Macedonia have four points from four matches.

TALKING POINT – A sputtering start to the Spalletti era

There are plenty of extenuating circumstances. Spalletti was only appointed Italy manager at the start of this month for one, and Italy had to deal with a very poor pitch on top of a dogged North Macedonia side. It should also be remembered that North Macedonia beat Italy in a World Cup play-off just last year, so you could say this result represents progress.

The performance was not good though. Italy were fairly ponderous with the ball and when they did attack, did not test Stole Dimitrievski – who picked up a shoulder injury in the first half – nearly enough. Immobile’s goal, scruffy as it was, was only their second shot on target and they mustered only three all match.

The Ukraine game on Tuesday is now huge. Win it and Italy will go level with their opponents, having played a game fewer, and will be in pole position to finish second in the group behind England. Fail to win and not qualifying for Euro 2024, despite being the reigning champions, becomes a real possibility.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH – Enis Bardhi (North Macedonia)

His brilliant free kick was the best moment of the game. Beyond that, Bardhi was frequently in the right place at the right time and made contributions at both ends of the pitch, summing up the hosts’ hard-running display.


Enis Bardhi scored North Macedonia’s equaliser versus Italy

Image credit: Imago


North Macedonia: Dimitrievski 7, Askovski 6, Manev 7, Zajkov 6, Musliu 6, Alioski 8, Elezi 6, Ananasov 6, Bardhi 8, Elmas 7, Miovski 6. Subs: Alimi 6, Dimoski 6, Serafimov 6, Iljazovski n/a.

Italy: Donnarumma 6, Di Lorenzo 6, Mancini 6, Bastoni 6, Dimarco 7, Barella 7, Cristante 5, Tonali 5, Politano 4, Immobile 7, Zaccagni 6. Subs: Zaniolo 6, Scalvini 7, Gnonto 5, Biraghi 5, Raspadori n/a.


CLOSE! 15′ – Cristante meets a corner at the near post and heads down but just wide.

CHANCE! 19′ – Alioski robs Politano of the ball on halfway, drives forward and produces an excellent cross for Miovski, who at full stretch heads wide.

OFF THE POST! 21′ – Tonali breaks from midfield and is found with a simple long ball. One-on-one, Tonali smashes a low shot off the near post.

GOAL! NORTH MACEDONIA 0-1 ITALY (IMMOBILE) 47′ – After North Macedonia do not clear their lines, Barela produces a dipping snapshot which crashes off the bar and Immobile reacts quickest to head in on the rebound.

CLOSE! 67′ – With Bardhi down and wanting a foul, Elmas seizes on a loose ball 25 yards out and unleashes a curling shot which bobbles inches wide of the far post.

GOAL! NORTH MACEDONIA 1-1 ITALY (BARDHI) 81′ – The free kick is two yards outside the box, left of centre, and Bardhi slams it beyond Donnarumma! We’re back level; it was ideally positioned for Bardhi’s right foot to curl into the far corner and he did just that.


  • Immobile’s goal was his 17th for Italy, which is more than any other active player.
  • In four games between these countries, they have a win apiece and there have now been two draws.
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