Half-Time Report: Stephen El Shaarawy fires Italy ahead as Azzurri close in on Euro 2016 spot

Half-Time Report: Stephen El Shaarawy fires Italy ahead
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Italy move halfway toward Euro 2016 after earning a 2-1 half-time lead away to Azerbaijan in a Group H qualifier.

Stephen El Shaarawy has fired Italy into a 2-1 half-time lead in Azerbaijan as the Azzurri moved halfway toward booking their ticket to Euro 2016.

Top of Group H, victory would see Antonio Conte's side confirm their progression, and they took a step towards France on 11 minutes when Eder opened the scoring.

The Sampdoria hitman, Serie A's leading goalscorer so far this season, brought his red-hot form to the international stage when he latched on to a neat pass from Marco Verratti, before tucking his effort beneath the body of Kamran Aghayev.

It was almost two on 17 minutes, and it was Eder again, but this time Aghayev came out on top as he produced a smart save to thwart the striker.

His opener did not seem enough to earn a half-time lead, as Dimitrij Nazarov ran on to Gurban Gurbanov's pass before finishing well past the rooted Gianluigi Buffon on 31 minutes.

However, the AS Monaco man re-established the lead in timely fashion as he tapped home Antonio Candreva's cross just before the break.

Graziano Pelle of Italy celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the EURO 2016 Group H Qualifier match between Italy and Malta during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Italy and Malta on September 3, 2015
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