Conte tops Hiddink as Italy beats Netherlands 2-0
BARI, Italy (AP) — Italy scored twice in the opening 10 minutes and Antonio Conte got the better of Guus Hiddink in their coaching debuts as a 10-man Netherlands was beaten 2-0 in a friendly on Thursday.
Ciro Immobile scored his first international goal three minutes in, and Daniele De Rossi added a penalty in the 10th.
The opening goal was set up by a long, vertical pass from defender Leonardo Bonucci, which Immobile controlled expertly then dribbled around goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen before slotting into an empty net.
The penalty was awarded after Bruno Martins Indi was sent off for pushing down Simone Zaza, and De Rossi converted a soft shot into the left corner as Cillessen dove the other way.
The Netherlands rarely threatened at San Nicola Stadium.
Conte replaced Cesare Prandelli, who resigned immediately after Italy’s first-round elimination from the World Cup. The well-traveled Hiddink began his second stint in charge of the Netherlands, building on the work of Louis van Gaal, who steered the Dutch to third in Brazil.
“Besides the result, I was interested to see how the lads responded. It was definitely a positive response,” Conte said. “We’ve only worked together for four days and we have a long road ahead of us.”
Both sides were missing key players.
Conte caused a stir when he left out star striker Mario Balotelli from his squad. Also, Andrea Pirlo was out injured and Gianluigi Buffon was rested.
However, Immobile, who led Serie A with 22 goals for Torino last season before transferring to Borussia Dortmund, and Zaza, who plays for unsung Sassuolo, made it so Balotelli was not missed.
“We played well together right away,” Zaza said. “There’s room for improvement.”
The Dutch had Arjen Robben, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Rafael van der Vaart, Jordy Clasie and Ron Vlaar out injured.
It marked the first time in 16 years that an Italy coach won on debut. After Dino Zoff guided the Azzurri to a 2-0 win over Wales in 1998, Giovanni Trapattoni, Marcello Lippi, Roberto Donadoni and Prandelli each failed to start with a victory.
Conte led Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles and is known as a hard-line disciplinarian.
“He’s a hammer,” Immobile said. “He expects a lot from every player and that’s the way it should be.”
Zaza nearly made it 3-0 in the 20th but failed to take advantage of a 3-on-1 opportunity when he couldn’t get his shot past Cillessen after Immobile passed to him unselfishly.
“Sometimes I miss the easy ones,” Zaza said.
The Netherlands didn’t produce a chance until Robin van Persie shot wide from a sharp angle in the 49th.
On Tuesday, Italy opens European Championship qualifying at Norway, and the Netherlands visits the Czech Republic.
“I always say winning helps you win,” Conte said.