LUCA BIANCHIN / AIPS in RAS AL-KHAIMAH: Luca Vido was the hero again for Italy at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.

AC Milan’s support striker scored the decisive goal in the Azzurrini’s 1-0 win against a surprisingly defiant New Zealand. He came on for his friend Michael Fabbro at halftime and needed only three minutes to beat Zac Speedy.

However, the fans in Ras Al-Khaimah will not forget at least three saves made by Italian goalkeeper Simone Scuffet, still unbeaten after two games. Italy now top Group B with six points, enough to secure the qualification to the second stage.

New Zealand reacted brightly after the 7-0 defeat by Uruguay and started the game energetically, forcing Italy to sit back and absorb the pressure. After 17 minutes, Italian goalkeeper Scuffet fouled Stuart Holthusen into the penalty area, then saved Monty Patterson’s penalty.

Poor first-half performances by Italy’s key players, Albert Cerri and Mario Pugliese, meant Scuffet had to impress as one of the best goalkeepers of the tournament, including pushing against the post a dangerous shot from Holthusen.

New Zealand played their best for 10 minutes from the halfhour and their fans in the stands worried only when Parigini hit the post.

At half-time Italy’s coach Daniele Zoratto replaced Fabbro with another AC Milan player: Luca Vido, man of the match against Cote d’Ivoire.

A few seconds into the second half, Vido scored, as he did on Thursday against the Africans. Cerri used his body to protect the ball and shot, Speedy saved but Vido converted the rebound.

The Azzurrini started to dominate the possession and Vido went close to a second goal only to see his shot deflected off the goal-line by Cory Brown. New Zealand used the counter-attack as their last hope but Judd Baker missed a chance to score the All Whites’ first goal of the tournament.

Zoratto said: “We won against a strong team, I have to congratulate New Zealand. However, we didn’t play well. At half-time I would have made 15 substitutions if possible.”

New Zealand’s Darren Bazeley praised Italy and insisted he was “very proud of my players for the reaction after the game against Uruguay.”