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Italy took a commanding lead in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a 3-0 triumph over Estonia in Modena.

Giuseppe Rossi opened the scoring in the 21st minute and Antonio Cassano doubled the lead before half-time.

Second-half substitute Giampaolo Pazzini made it 3-0 in the 68th minute as the Azzurri remained unbeaten in Group C.

Estonia, missing some key players, posed no threat against a solid Italian defence.

The result left Cesare Prandelli’s side five points clear of Slovenia in the pool with four games remaining, and with a game in hand over the Slovenians.

The victory at the Alberto Braglia stadium was also the perfect tonic for a country that was rocked yet again this week by a match-fixing and betting ring scandal in which numerous players and executives of Serie B and C clubs were among 16 people arrested or questioned.

With Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli out injured, Prandelli fielded Rossi and Cassano in attack and his selection paid dividends.

Estonia, who had pushed Italy hard before losing 2-1 last September, struggled to put any pressure together without injured midfielder Aleksandr Dmitrijev and suspended striker Konstantin Vassiljev.

The hosts were first to threaten in the 13th minute as Rossi set up Cassano inside the area and the AC Milan striker’s lob was saved by Estonia goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko.

Shortly afterwards, Pareiko kept out Rossi’s 10-yard effort.

At the other end, Tarmo Kink tried his luck from distance but sent his effort way off target.

Italy continued to press forward and went in front soon after.

Cassano found Rossi inside the six-yard box and his angled strike beat Pareiko.

Prandelli was forced to make his first substitution in the 24th minute, with Antonio Nocerino replacing the injured Alberto Aquilani.

The Azzurri were unlucky not to make it 2-0 when Rossi’s left-footed shot beat Pareiko but struck the post.

With Estonia offering little opposition, the Italians surged forward and made it 2-0 in the 39th minute.

Riccardo Montolivo fed Cassano inside the area and his right-footed strike towards the left corner of goal beat Pareiko.

Estonia had yet to test Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as both sides headed to the interval.

Italy picked up where they left off after the restart and extended their lead.

Montolivo found Pazzini in the heart of the area and he struck the ball out of Pareiko’s reach.

With two minutes remaining, Buffon was called into action for the first time in the game to save Martin Vunk’s 30-yard effort

The hosts celebrated their fifth win in qualifying and will next travel to the Faroe Islands on September 2.

Source: ESPN

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