Italy 2-0 Spain: Dominant Azzurri eliminate blunt La Roja
Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle’s goals proved enough for Italy as they saw off their old foes Spain by 2-0 at the Stade de France in the last 16 of Euro 2016.
Antonio Conte’s side completely dominated the first half, and could have been out of sight at the break were it not for the heroics of David De Gea, before Spain grew into the game in the second half and made Italy work for their place in the quarter finals.
The Azzurri started the game well, and looked to put Spain under pressure on a less than perfect pitch at the Stade de France.
David De Gea was in inspired form early on, as he pulled off two top-drawer saves to deny Graziano Pelle and Emanuele Giaccherini inside the game’s opening 10 minutes.
Leonardo Bonucci showed his playmaking abilities as the first half edged beyond its midway point. Intercepting a Spanish attack, the Juventus man charged up the pitch before releasing the ball to Daniele De Rossi. A cross from the left found Marco Parolo in a promising position but the Lazio midfielder could not direct his header goal-bound.
Almost immediately, Mattia De Sciglio found space down the left, from where he delivered a dangerously low cross into Spain’s six-yard box. Sergio Ramos was on duty to clear, however, his right-footed swing sent the ball perilously close to his own goal, as it went over for a corner.
The Azzurri got their deserved lead just after the half-hour mark. Eder’s free-kick was turned away by De Gea, only for Giaccherini to power in and bundle the ball inadvertently across to Giorgio Chiellini, who tapped in the rebound.
Giaccherini came close to doubling Italy’s lead just before the break, as he cut in from the left wing before unleashing a fierce strike at goal. However, once again, De Gea was not to be beaten as he turned the ball behind for a corner.
Spain began to up their game in the second half, and Alvaro Morata should have drawn La Roja level. Morata found himself with a free header inside Italy’s six-yard box, which he could only direct straight at ex-teammate Gianluigi Buffon.
Shortly after, Eder showed glimpses of his Sampdoria-self as he broke through Spain’s defence, only for De Gea to stand big and deny the Brazil-born striker when the odds were stacked against the Manchester United goalkeeper.
As the game ticked beyond the hour mark, De Gea proved he is a mere mortal as he fumbled a low cross from De Sciglio. Fortunately for the Spaniard, nobody in blue was on hand to punish him for his mistake.
Spain began to assert their dominance for the final 25 minutes. Ramos climbed highest to head a corner over Buffon’s crossbar with 70 minutes played.
With 15 minutes to play La Roja turn the screw even tighter. Buffon was forced into a handful of saves to deny Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.
Buffon’s athleticism was called upon again with less than a minute of regulation time to play as he got down low to deny a certain Pique goal.
Italy went straight up the other end and punished Spain’s lack of cutting edge, as a well-worked counterattack resulted in Pelle firing home the goal to end Spain’s chances of progression.