Cedric Itten scores on dream debut as Switzerland scrape past Georgia
Substitute striker scores in front of his home fans in St Gallen to secure victory
Switzerland forward Cedric Itten heads home the winning goal during the Euro 2020 Group D qualifier against Georgia at Kybunpark stadium in St Gallen. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/AFP via Getty Images
Switzerland 1 Georgia 0
Debutant Cedric Itten pounced for a 77th-minute winner in St Gallen on Friday night to lift Switzerland into second place in the Euro 2020 Group D qualifying table.
In a generally frustrating encounter for the hosts, it was left for the towering 22-year-old – playing in front of his home fans – to break the stubborn resistance of a plucky Georgia.
It also prevents a possible three-way tie after Monday night’s final two games, which would require Ireland to win by two goals against the Danes, rather than the straight shootout that remains on the cards. Switzerland travel to play face basement side Gibraltar in their final game.
Switzerland breathed a sigh of relief when Giorgi Kvilitaia hit the post from close range, before Loria denied Premier League duo Granit Xhaka and Albian Ajeti at the opposite end.
The longer Vladimir Petkovic’s men went without securing a breakthrough, the more apprehensive they became. Conversely, the Georgian challenge gathered pace as the action progressed.
The lively Levan Shengelia fired just past the target off a swift counterattack and Valeri Qazaishvili also went close on 71 minutes. This was the cue for local star Itten to be thrown into the mix and it was a move that paid dividends.
Zakaria lofted a precise ball into the area, where Itten was ideally placed to head into the bottom right-hand corner.
SWITZERLAND: Sommer; Elvedi, Akanji, Rodriguez; Lichtsteiner, Zakaria, Xhaka, Steffen; Fernandes (Sow, 84 mins); Ajeti (Itten, 71 mins), Vargas (Fassnacht, 78 mins).
GEORGIA: Loria; Kakabadze, Kashia, Grigalava, Khocholava; Kankava, Kiteishvili (Papunashvili, 84 mins); Davitashvili (Gvilia, 84 mins), Shengelia, Qazaishvili; Kvilitaia.
Referee: D Makkelie (Netherlands).