- October 6, 2021
- 1 Comment
Spain end Italy’s unbeaten run to reach Nations League final
Spain brought Italy’s record 37-match unbeaten run to an end on Wednesday with a 2-1 win to reach the Nations League final.
Ferran Torres’ first-half brace won the Final Four clash for Spain at the San Siro, where Luis Enrique’s side will face either France or Belgium in Sunday’s final.
Italy were already second best, and 1-0 down, when captain Leonardo Bonucci was sent off for two bookings, the second for an elbow on Sergio Busquets.
They looked dead and buried until Lorenzo Pellegrini’s late goal after a wonderful Federico Chiesa run on a counter-attack – but could not find an unmerited equalizer.
Spain handed 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder Gavi a start, making him the youngest international in their history – less than six weeks after his club debut – and he looked at home on this stage.
The Nations League may be a fairly new tournament – and derided by some – but when both sides had 11 men this was played with the talent and intensity of any World Cup or European Championship encounter.
This also marks the first time Italy have lost a competitive game in their homeland since 1999.
But the game was done by that stage, especially with Italy down to 10 men. Roberto Mancini brought on veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini for attacker Federico Bernardeschi at half-time as the hosts looked for some damage limitation.
They only had one shot in the second half – when Chiesa ran from his own half after Spain committed men forward and unselfishly squared for substitute Pellegrini.
Spain gave Italy their most difficult game at Euro 2020 when they wasted a load of chances before losing on penalties.
But they got the win they deserved this time. There was the strange situation too of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was named the best player at Euro 2020, but was booed throughout by his own fans. He left San Siro occupants AC Milan for Paris St-Germain in the summer.
It appeared to affect him at times, most notably when he fumbled Marcos Alonso’s volley on to the post moments after the opening goal.
Italy will face the losers of Thursday’s game between Belgium and France at Juventus’ stadium in Sunday’s third-place play-off at the same venue