|Marco Veratti emerged with the ball from a sea of legs in the first half of Italy's 2-1 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the San Siro. (Photo credit: UEFA.com)
Records are meant to be broken, and if there’s a game that will end Italy’s unbeaten run, it had to be the thrilling 2-1 loss to Spain in the semifinals of the UEFA Nations League at the San Siro on Wednesday night.
Italy were on a 37 match unbeaten run which dates back to 2018 and are the reigning European champions but La Roja took the game to them, buoyed by a Leonardo Bonucci red card late in the second half.
In the first semifinal on Wednesday at the San Siro stadium, Spain boss Luis Henrique went for a mixture of the past in Sergio Bousquet and Ceaser Azpilicueta, the present in Koke, Sergi Roberto and Marcus Alonso as well as the future in the exciting Pablo Gavira, Ferran Torres and Yeremy Pino.
The game took off to a fine start with Spain drawing the first blood in the 17th minute through the Manchester City forward Torres who latched on to a Mikel Oyarzabal assist to beat Gigi Donnarumma with a deft finish.
The Italians had their moments in the first half as well, Federico Chiesa was the outlet for the European champions from the left wing with bursting pace and trickery, he’d later become a thorn in the flesh of the Spaniards with energy and fearlessness.
As the half wore on, end to end football entertained the fans as Unai Simon saved from Chiesa smartly and Donnarumma spilled an effort from Oyarzabal before Bonucci cleared the rebound to safety, however the Juventus center back saw red moments later with a second yellow after elbowing Bousquet to leave Italy a man down.
Spain capitalized immediately with Torres heading home unmarked from another Oyarzabal cross, leaving Spain two goals ahead and Italy’s unbeaten record in danger.
The second half saw Spain toy with the Azzuris, stringing passes together and teasing them without pity, but Roberto Mancini’s side weren’t done, they burst forward at every opportunity and took their chance when they got one.
Mancini rang changes, he’d earlier sent on Georgio Chiellini to cushion the effect of Bonucci’s red card, Marco Veratti gave way for Manuel Locatelli and Moise Keane was sent on for the needed energy while Lorenzo Pellegrini also replaced Nicolo Barella.
Italy halved the deficit with seven minutes left on the
clock, Chiesa caught the hesitant Spanish defense in possession and raced home
before sliding to Pellegrini who slotted into an empty net; Spain however held
on in a nervy finish to book a place in the final slated for Sunday.