Matteo Pessina got the goal on a Marco Verratti free kick, as the completely revamped Italy beat Wales to maintain the perfect Euro 2020 start.
The Azzurri were already qualified for the Round of 16, but needed a point to guarantee top spot in Group A and match the all-time record of 30 games unbeaten. Giorgio Chiellini and Alessandro Florenzi were injured, but Roberto Mancini made eight changes to the last XI, including Marco Verratti’s Euro 2020 debut after a knee issue. Wales had four points going in, relying on Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey as a False 9 and Gareth Bale.
Italy wore black armbands in honour of Azzurri and Juventus legend Giampiero Boniperti, who died this week.
Federico Chiesa skinned Chris Gunter only for his cross for Federico Bernardeschi to be cut out at the last moment, while Emerson Palmieri tested Danny Ward from distance and Andrea Belotti flashed a cross-shot beyond both the upright and Chiesa.
However, Gunter’s header on a corner skimmed the near top corner on 26 minutes, but it was otherwise all Italy, with Ethan Ampadu practically clearing Chiesa’s chest and volley off the line.
The red wall finally fell on 39 minutes when Verratti’s free kick found Pessina, who got in front of the defenders to flick with the inside of the right boot into the far bottom corner. The Atalanta man was the last addition to the Italy squad, coming in after Stefano Sensi’s injury.
It was almost 2-0 moments later, a cross only grazing Pessina, Ampadu and consequently the far post.
Leonardo Bonucci was rested for the second half, the captain’s armband going to Verratti. Federico Bernardeschi hit the base of the upright with a free kick from over 30 metres out, as Italy’s decoy wall peeled away to create a gap.
Jorginho tracked back to stop Aaron Ramsey, but Wales were reduced to 10 men moments later, as Ampadu was extremely late to land studs on Bernardeschi’s ankle and the referee opted for a straight red card.
Chiesa pulled back for Belotti, forcing a desperate Ward save from six yards, and Rafael Toloi flicked a corner just beyond Acerbi.
Gareth Bale wasted a huge opportunity to equalise and end Italy’s clean sheet record, volleying over undisturbed after Joe Rodon knocked down a free kick.
Gaetano Castrovilli and even goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu came on at the end, meaning every Italy player except Alex Meret has featured at Euro 2020. Belotti and Bryan Cristante both tested Ward in stoppages.
Italy 1-0 Wales
Pessina 39 (I)
Italy: Donnarumma (Sirigu 89); Toloi, Bonucci (Acerbi 46), Bastoni, Emerson; Pessina (Castrovilli 87), Jorginho (Cristante 74), Verratti; Chiesa, Belotti, Bernardeschi (Raspadori 74)
Wales: Ward; Ampadu, Rodon, Gunter; C Roberts, Morrell (Moore 60), Allen (Levitt 86), N Williams (B Davies 86); Bale (Brooks 86), Ramsey, James (Wilson 74)
Ref: Hategan (ROM)
Sent off: Ampadu 56 (W)