HAIFA (AFP) - Italy, reduced to 10-men, got their 2018 World Cup qualifying off to an impressive start by defeating Israel 3-1 in-front of a sold-out Sammy Offer stadium in Haifa on Monday.
The victory marked new Italian manager Giampiero Ventura's first win as Azzurri boss.
Italy stunned the home crowd when Shandong Luneng forward Graziano Pelle tapped in a goal past helpless Israeli keeper Dudu Goresh in the 14th minute.
In the 31st minute, Italy won a controversial penalty when Israeli defender Ben Bitton knocked Giacomo Bonaventura to the ground.
Antonio Candreva converted the penalty.
After Italy dominated possession in the first 35 minutes, Israeli winger Tal Ben Haim scored a beautiful chip to give Israel a fighting chance.
Israel started the second half full of confidence and threatened Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon several times.
Israel were given renewed hope when Italy were reduced to 10 men in the 55th minute, veteran defender Girgio Chiellini picking up his second yellow card of the evening.
It was the Italian defender's first red card in 90 appearances for the Azzurri.
The red card revitalised the Israeli crowd and brought hope that they could cause a huge upset.
Israel continued to attack before an Italian fast break in the 83rd minute sealed the deal when Ciro Immobile scored to give the visitors a decisive lead.
In the next batch of qualifiers in October Italy tackle Spain in Turin while Israel travel to Skopje to face Macedonia.