ITALY 1, SPAIN 1
(after extra time, Italy won 4-2 on penalties)
Italy awaits England or Denmark in the final of Euro 2020 after they won a dramatic penalty shootout against Spain at Wembley.
And whichever team won this blockbuster would have represented a robust challenge for Gareth Southgate’s side if they triumph tomorrow.
They were clearly a step-up in class from any of the opponents England have confronted so far.
Nothing separated two of Europe’s super-powers after a high quality two hours of semi-final action.
And in the end Italy, second best for most of the night, held their nerve as Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata missed their penalties.Embed from Getty Images
It left the Italians jubilant as they bid to win the Euros for only the second time, their sole success being in 1968. They also extended their unbeaten run to a remarkable 33 games.
Three-times winners Spain, with former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique manager, will be kicking themselves as they were the dominant team against the Italians who had been one of the stand-out sides.
Spain had 70 per cent possession, 16 goal attempts to Italy’s seven and, with more clinical finishing, would have won in regulation times.
Italy stole ahead on the hour through a wonderful strike from Federico Chiesa, 23, the striker who is on loan at Juventus from Fiorentina.
Spain, with Manchester City players Aymeric Laporte, Ferran Torres and Rodri involved as well as recently departed Eric Garcia, were rewarded with 10 minutes left when Morata, once of Chelsea, came off the bench to score a deserved equaliser.
Italy, with former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini in charge, had one enforced change with Chelsea’s Emerson replacing the injured Leonardo Spinazzola at left-back.
Otherwise, it was the same starting line-up when they beat Belgium 2-1 last time.
Morata was left out of the Spain side in one of three changes from their penalty shootout win over Switzerland. Mikel Oyarzabal, usually more of a winger, took his place up front.
Olmo replaced the injured Pablo Sarabia out wide, and Garcia took the place of Pau Torres at centre-back.
Italy, one of the favourites for Euro 2020, were second best in the opening period in which Spain enjoyed two thirds possession and created the better openings.
Yet early in the game Nicola Barella struck the frame of the Spanish goal, though it would not have counted as he was flagged for offside.
Spain, unconvincing so far, produced by far their best football of the tournament, though their failing was again the lack of a cutting edge.
Torres ran through from deep only to fire wide. The only on-target goal attempt of the opening period came from Dani Olmo whose effort was well saved low down by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Yet in the dying seconds of the opening period, Italy almost snatched an unlikely lead.
Lorenzo Insigne released Chelsea’s Emerson who struck the crossbar from a tight angle on the left.
And Spain remained a threat at the start of the second period when a break from Oyarzabal set up Sergio Busquets whose effort dipped narrowly over the crossbar.
How Spain were made to pay for those missed chances as Italy stole ahead on the hour following a devastating counter attack.
It began with goalkeeper Donnarumma quickly rolling out the ball and ended Aymeric Laporte’s challenge on Ciro Immobile ricocheting to Chiesa who bent in a terrific effort from 14 yards to the left of keeper Unai Simon, his second goal of the tournament.
Spain had two great chances to quickly draw level but Oyarzabal completely missed a header when free in front of goal and Olmo fired not far wide.
But they were rewarded with 10 minutes left when substitute Morata finally breached the Italian defence.
The former Chelsea man was played in by Olmo’s short pass as he rolled home a low shot past Donnarumma for his third goal of the tournament.
It was also a record sixth goal for Spain in all Euros, beating the previous best of Fernando Torres.
Spain were the superior and more adventurous side in the opening half of extra time as Olmo and Morata had shots blocked in the same move as the ball eventually deflected off Busquets and rolled agonisingly wide.
Domenico Berardi thought he had scored a 110th minute winner for Italy, but he was pulled up for straying offside.