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Balotelli Bags In First Game Back As Azzurri Beat Saudi Arabia

Mario Balotelli Italy
ST GALLEN, SWITZERLAND - MAY 28: Mario Balotelli of Italy scores the opening goal during the International Friendly match between Saudi Arabia and Italy on May 28, 2018 in St Gallen, Switzerland. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Mario Balotelli scored as Roberto Mancini made a winning start as Italy boss against Saudi Arabia.

Former Manchester City and Liverpool forward Balotelli marked his first international appearance for four years with a superb solo goal.

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Andrea Belotti put away a loose ball for Italy’s second before Yahya Al Shehri pulled one back for World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia.

Ex-Man City boss Mancini was appointed head coach earlier this month.

The 53-year-old, who led City to their first Premier League title in 2012, took over after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.

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Saudi Arabia will be in Russia though and face the hosts in the competition’s opening game in Moscow on 14 June, before going on to play Uruguay and Egypt in Group A.

Balotelli, 27, who plays for French club Nice, had not featured for Italy since the 2014 World Cup, where he scored in the 2-1 group-stage win over England.

But his international career could be revitalised under Mancini, for whom he played under during his three-year spell at City.

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He jinked past a Saudi defender on the edge of the area before firing home the opener from 20 yards in the friendly in St Gallen, Switzerland.

It was Italy’s first match since Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon announced he would no longer play for the national side after 176 appearances.

But his young replacement Gianluigi Donnarumma could do little to prevent Saudi Arabia’s late consolation as he was left stranded when Chelsea’s Davide Zappacosta gave away the ball to allow Al Shehri to score.

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