KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Finally, a glimpse of normality: football with fans and not only football but one of sport’s greatest events in the European Championship finals. Rome, as the stage for the pandemic-delayed Opening Match, duly witnessed its own accomplished Italy disposing of Turkey 3-0 with second half strikes from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne plus an own goal.

Victory echoed the happy memories aroused by Andrea Bocelli’s pre-match and firework-enhanced rendering of the Nessun Dorma anthem immortalised back at Italia 90 by Luciano Pavarotti. Equally welcome at these finals will be the sight of fans back in all the 11 stadia – starting with 16,500 in the Stadio Olimpico.

They're back! . . . Azzurri fans in the Stadio Olimpico

Italy approached their first finals appearance in five years, having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, off the back of a 27-game unbeaten run.

That included 10 wins out of 10 in the long-ago qualifying competition and they bore a familiar look with veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Bonucci in central defence.

Unusually in the Euro finals no fewer than nine of the 24 finalists would enjoy home advantage in most if not all of their three group games, introducing an extra level of tension with the expectation of fans and media.

Best foot forward

This has not always worked to Italy’s advantage in the modern era but it did this time.

They began at a brisk tempo and could have taken the lead after only 17 minutes. Insigne, played in on the left, angled his shot wide of the far post. Then Chiellini advanced for a right-wing corner and saw his ‘free’ header tipped acrobatically over the bar by Ugurcan Cakir.

Italy also had a hat-trick of optimistic penalty claims ignored by Dutch referee Danny Makkelie.

At times Turkey pulled almost everyone back into and around their own penalty box as they struggled to frustrate the Italians’ touch passing up to the welcome halftime whistle.

Both coaches made halftime changes but without affecting the pattern of play. This was one-way traffic. Italy picked up where they left off at the break and took a 54th-minute lead when Merih Demaril popped Domenico Berardi’s right-wing cross into his own net.

Next Cakir had to dive left to push a 20-metre drive from Manuel Locatelli around his left-hand post for a corner then home-ground favourite Immobile pounced for a 66th-minute second goal after Cakir only parried a low drive from Leonardo Spinazzola.

This was a 14th national team goal for the Lazio striker who won the ESM European Golden Boot as the continent’s leading league marksman in the interrupted 2019-20 season.

Insigne extend the lead in the 79th minute after a poor clearance from Cakir caught his own defence by surprise.

A ninth successive Italian victory without a goal conceded was now merely a matter of time. Turkey’s only notes for the record were the first yellow cards of the finals for Caglar Soyuncu and then Halil Dervişoğlu.

The teams:

Turkey: Ugurcan Cakir – Zeki Celik, Merih Demiral, Soyuncu, Umut Meras – Okay Yokuslu (Irfan Can Kahveci 64) – Kenan Karaman (Halil Dervişoğlu 76), Ozan Tufan (Kaan Ayhan 64), Yusuf Yazici (Cengiz Under 46), Hakan Calhanoglu – Burak Yilmaz.
Subs: Gunok, Tokoz, Bayindir, Antalyali, Kabak, Unal, Kokcu, Muldur.

Italy: Donnarumma – Florenzi (Di Lorenzo 46), Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola – Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli (Cristante 72) – Berardi (Bernadeschi) 85, Immobile (Belotti 81), Insigne (Chiesa 81).

Subs: Raspadori, Bastoni, Sirigu, Meret, Belotti, Pessina, Emerson Palmieri, Chiesa, Acerbi, Bernardeschi.

Referee: Danny Makkelie (Net).