Italy’s Under-21 side paid the price for defensive errors, but dominated the second half and were denied by a goalline clearance in their 3-1 friendly defeat to Spain.
The Azzurrini were without the injured Lorenzo Insigne for this prestigious friendly test, as he left the training camp this morning with a bruised ankle, while Stephan El Shaarawy and Alessandro Florenzi have been upgraded to the senior squad. Both Devis Mangia’s boys and Spain have qualified for the European Under-21 Championship and faced off in this friendly at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Siena.
In the opening minute Riccardo Saponara’s looping header whistled just wide of the upright. Rodrigo threatened at the other end, his angled drive deflected out for a corner off Marco Capuano. Another Rodrigo header was smothered by Livorno goalkeeper Francesco Bardi.
Bad news for Jacopo Sala, who seemed to strain his calf and was stretchered off, making way for Parma’s Nicola Sansone on his debut. Lorenzo Crisetig’s snapshot was eventually caught by the Spanish goalkeeper Marino after a good Giuseppe De Luca move.
However, moments later Spain broke the deadlock with a fine move from Rodrigo. The striker sprung the offside trap in the final third from an Isco through ball and kept his cool to waltz round Berardi, depositing into an empty net from a tight angle. It was his 12th goal in 10 appearances for the Under-21 side.
Isco audaciously tried to score with a lob from midfield, but Bardi was prepared for it. Spain did get a second goal, much to the anger of Coach Devis Mangia, as the defence was again at fault. Pablo Sarabia sprung the offside trap and was able to take his time waiting for Gerard Deulofeu to continue the run and roll across for an easy finish.
Ciro Immobile hesitated in the box and was cut off by Marc Bartra, but the Azzurrini were unlucky to lose Saponara to another calf injury. Mangia was already without first choice wingers Insigne and Florenzi, then lost both Sala and Saponara during the first half. Mattia De Sciglio had a promising opportunity in stoppages, but only scuffed the Immobile cross.
Both sides made substitutions, including Samuele Longo, who plies his trade in Spain for Espanyol. It was Inter-owned striker Longo who got one back for Italy, as he burst down the left on a Sansone assist and held off a defender to place the angled drive across Mariño into the far bottom corner.
It was almost 2-2, as Mattia De Sciglio volleyed a ball across the face of goal that Manolo Gabbiadini just failed to make contact with.
Gabbiadini went close again, as he chested down a chipped Sansone pass and spun round only to pull his finish wide of the far stick. The impressive Sansone was born in Germany and grew up in the Bayern Munich academy.
Bardi had to sprint off his line to close down Bartra, but the Azzurrini should’ve been on 2-2 after a splendid counter-attacking move. Sansone and Gabbiadini exchanged passes twice, then Longo spread the play for De Sciglio and the Milan full-back’s angled drive was only denied by an Asier Illarramendi goalline clearance.
Gabbiadini tested Mariño at the near post and Sansone’s shot was charged down as Italy pegged Spain back into their own half. Longo burst through the centre of the Spanish defence and Mariño showed courage to block at his feet in a one-on-one.
Just as the Azzurrini were pouring forward, they left gaps at the back and Alvaro again went clear on a Muniain through ball to go round the goalkeeper and slide into the empty net. It was almost identical to the opening Spanish goal.
Italy 1-3 Spain
Scorers: Rodrigo 19 (S), Deulofeu 34 (S), Longo 57 (I), Alvaro 93 (S)
Italy: Bardi; De Sciglio, Capuano (Romagnoli 69), Caldirola, Frascatore; Sala (Sansone 14) (Sampirisi 82), Crisetig, Marrone (Baselli 69), Saponara (Donati 44); Immobile (Longo 46), De Luca (Gabbiadini 46)
Spain: Mariño; Carvajal (Tello 58), Bartra, Inigo Martinez (Nacho 46), Aurtenexte; Deulofeu (Alvaro 58), Oriol Romeu (Sergi Roberto 83), Koke (Illarramendi 46); Isco (Suso 83), Rodrigo (Hugo Mallo 58), Sarabia (Muniain 79)
Ref: Swayer (GER)
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!