Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi proved the match-winner with a brace as world champions Italy laboured to a 2-0 victory over Georgia.
The victory ensured the Italians went top of FIFA World Cup™ qualifying Group 8 following a scoreless draw between Montenegro and Ireland. Coach Marcelo Lippi was pleased to have started with two wins out of two following the 2-1 victory in Cyprus on Saturday and said that his players would be in better shape physically for their two October matches.
"It's good enough. We've got six points, the players did well," said Lippi, now in his second stint in charge of the national team having stepped down following their victory in Germany two years ago. "We finished with two good results and now we can go home and get five or six more games under our belts before the next matches," he told Rai Sport.
Italy began by playing some free-flowing football but gradually lost their way against spirited and determined opponents. De Rossi won the match for the FIFA World Cup holders with a thunder bolt from 30 yards in the first half and then he latched onto a clever pass from substitute Alessandro Del Piero a minute from time to secure the three points.
De Rossi admitted Italy had not produced their best form but praised Georgia for their work-rate. "," he said.
We wanted to win in a way that would please us but Georgia made it difficult for us
Italy started brightly and Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani strode forward on seven minutes but shot straight at goalkeeper George Loria. On the quarter hour the world champions really sprung into life as Bayern Munich forward Luca Toni released Antonio Di Natale with a pinpoint turn and pass.
Playing in front of his home fans in Udine Di Natale, the hero against Cyprus on Saturday, would have been a popular scorer but he clipped his shot just wide of the upright under pressure from Loria and a defender. Italy were on top and Argentina-born midfielder Mauro Camoranesi almost bundled his way through moments later.
However, on 17 minutes the hosts were deservedly in front through a rocket from De Rossi, who turned his man in midfield with a clever drag-back and then advanced forward looking for a pass before changing his mind and thrashing a swerving shot home from fully 30 yards.
"When I approached the goal I realised I was a long way out but I thought I'd give it a try with my left foot," said De Rossi.
Georgia should have equalised on 26 minutes after a lightning counter-attack from Levan Kenia and Leven Mchedlidze. Kenia ran at the heart of Italy's defence before releasing Mchedlidze to his left.
The little midfielder then ran onto his team-mate's cross into the box but when all he had to do was tap the ball home he slipped and sat on the ball, rising quickly but poking a feeble shot into a prone defender as the chance went begging.
Italy continued to boss proceedings after the break without creating many clear-cut chances. Lippi tried to inject some urgency into the game by introducing Juventus strike pair Del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta with the latter firing into the side-netting 13 minutes from time.
A few minutes after that Iaquinta forced a save out of Loria following good work from Camoranesi, Del Piero and another substitute Angelo Palombo before De Rossi applied the final touch a minute from time.