Italy saw their 37-match unbeaten run ended by Spain, as Ferran Torres scored two goals around the Leonardo Bonucci red card, so they’ll play for third place in the Nations League.
This was the first of the Nations League semi-finals, with France-Belgium tomorrow evening in Turin, and a replay of the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final that was decided on penalties. The Azzurri went on to win the trophy and went into San Siro on a world record 37-match unbeaten run.
Both sides were missing numerous players due to injury, so Federico Bernardeschi was chosen as a False 9 and Alessandro Bastoni preferred to Giorgio Chiellini in defence. Spain also didn’t have a real centre-forward, but 17-year-old Gavi became the youngest ever debutant for Spain.
There was an unfortunate extra tension in the air, as some Milan fans jeered every time Gianluigi Donnarumma touched the ball after he left for a free transfer to PSG.
Federico Chiesa had the first chance after five minutes, palmed away at full stretch by Unai Simon, while Alessandro Bastoni made a decisive block on Mikel Oyarzabal.
Spain took the lead when Oyarzabal got down the left and whipped in a cross that Bastoni failed to cut out, so Ferran Torres cushioned it into the far bottom corner off the inside of his right boot.
It was almost 2-0 moments later, as Donnarumma fumbled the ball onto the near post and Bonucci had to clear it off the line. Even Sergio Busquets went over to reassure the goalkeeper, realising the jeers were getting to him.
Italy fought back, Unai Simon having to palm a Bernardeschi strike onto the upright from a counter, then moments later Lorenzo Insigne incredibly fired wide on Emerson Palmieri’s assist from 14 yards when practically undisturbed.
Just as the Azzurri were getting back into the game, they went down to 10 men, as Leonardo Bonucci received a second yellow card for jumping with elbow raised on Sergio Busquets. His first booking had been for dissent.
Spain went into the break 2-0 up, as another Oyarzabal cross found Ferran Torres, this time for a well-placed header back across Donnarumma into the far top corner.
Giorgio Chiellini came on for the restart, but inevitably Spain started to play keep-ball for long periods. Chiesa sprinted onto a long ball and thumped the near post, but the offside flag was up.
Oyarzabal nodded inches wide after Yeremy Pino floated a cross to the back post, then Donnarumma made a sensational one-on-one save to deny Marcos Alonso.
However, Italy gained hope of an extraordinary comeback when Spain were caught out on their own corner, Chiesa sprinting 50 metres forward, committing Unai Simon and rolling it across for the Lorenzo Pellegrini tap-in. It was a special goal for him, as the Roma midfielder had to miss EURO 2020 through injury.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo made a sensational tackle on Bryan Gil in the six-yard box, but Italy poured forward with 10 men, Unai Simon having to smother at the feet of Manuel Locatelli.
Italy 1-2 Spain
Ferran Torres 17, 45 (S), Pellegrini 83 (I)
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Emerson; Barella (Calabria 72), Jorginho (Pellegrini 64), Verratti (Locatelli 58); Chiesa, Bernardeschi (Chiellini 46), Insigne (Kean 58)
Spain: Unai Simon; Azpilicueta, Laporte, Pau Torres, Marcos Alonso; Koke (Merino 75), Busquets, Gavi (Sergi Roberto 84); Ferran Torres (Pino 49), Sarabia (Bryan Gil 75), Oyarzabal
Ref: Karasev (RUS)
Sent off: Bonucci 42 (I)