Belgium 0-2 Italy: Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle seal victory
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 14/06/16 9:35am
Italy took full control of Group E with a superb 2-0 victory over Belgium in their Euro 2016 opener in Lyon.
Sunderland midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, finishing well after Leonardo Bonucci's superb pass.
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku capped a poor night for Marc Wilmots' side, failing to hit the target after being played in one-on-one with Gianluigi Buffon by Eden Hazard.
And the miss proved to be costly with Southampton forward Graziano Pelle sealing all three points for Italy with an emphatic volley in injury time as Antonio Conte's side won a first European Championship opener in 16 years.
Italy move to the top of Group E after the 1-1 draw between Republic of Ireland and Sweden earlier in the day. The Azzurri's next game is against Sweden on Friday, while Belgium will look to get their campaign back on track against Martin O'Neill's side.
Belgium, who featured seven Premier League players, started brightly and had the first sight of goal with Radja Nainggolan forcing Buffon into a smart save.
Wilmots' side were enjoying plenty of possession but an attack featuring Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne struggled to create any clear-cut chances.
Italy looked a threat on the break and they wanted a penalty in the 28th minute when Giaccherini was caught by the sliding Laurent Ciman just inside the penalty area. England's Mark Clattenburg, taking charge of his first game in the tournament, waved away the appeals.
Conte's side were starting to build some pressure and Southampton striker Pelle was next to test Thibaut Courtouis with the Chelsea goalkeeper tipping the effort over the bar.
The pressure finally told in the 32nd minute as Bonucci, who was just inside his own half, pinged an inch-perfect pass over the top to Giaccherini, who took a touch before powering the ball past Courtois and into the back of the net.
Italy, buoyed by the goal, were firmly on the front foot and they should have doubled their advantage five minutes later but Pelle guided his free header wide of the far post.
After the break, Belgium, who were lacklustre for most of the night, finally sparked into life with De Bruyne releasing Lukaku in on goal. However, the Everton striker fluffed his lines, lifting his shot over the advancing Buffon but wide of the far post.
Courtois then kept Belgium in the game with a stunning one-handed save to repel a powerful close-range header from Pelle.
Lukaku's poor game was brought to an end when Divock Origi was summoned from the bench, and the Liverpool striker had a brilliant chance to equalise with nine minutes remaining, but he failed to hit the target, heading De Bruyne's cross over the crossbar.
Belgium's night was summed up a minute from time when Dries Mertens crossed into the area, Origi completely missed with an attempted header and the ball ricocheted between Marouane Fellaini's legs before somehow ending up in the hands of Buffon.
And moments later Italy broke forward with Candreva crossing for Pelle to thump in a volley and make it 2-0, sparking wild celebrations among the Italians.
Belgium: Courtois, Ciman (Carrasco, 75), Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Witsel, Nainggolan (Mertens, 62), Fellaini, De Bruyne, Hazard, R. Lukaku (Origi, 73).
Italy: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi (Motta, 78), Giaccherini, Darmian (De Sciglio, 59), Pelle, Eder (Immobile, 75).
Man of the Match: Emanuele Giaccherini