Italy have Jorginho to thank for their 1-1 draw against Poland on Friday, as they got their UEFA Nations League campaign underway in less than spectacular fashion.
Piotr Zielinski opened the scoring in the 40th minute, but a penalty 12 minutes from time from the Chelsea man was enough to prevent defeat for Roberto Mancini’s men.
The goal was the lone bright spot however as despite an influx of fresh faces and renewed optimism, Italy were anything but impressive as they rarely threatened an organized Poland resistance.
Italy were slow out of the gates and had Donnarumma to thank for keeping it scoreless. Roberto Gagliardini gave the ball away, allowing Robert Lewandowski to send Zielinski in on goal.
The Milan No.1 denied him with a sensational stop, but it was a sign of things to come.
Mancini’s men struggled to create much, with their midfield unable to find space, and it wasn’t until the 37th minute that they created their first real opportunity. Bernardeschi found some space after a Poland mistake, but he fired wide of the far post.
It was Poland who deservedly took the lead in the 40th minute after Jorginho was caught in possession deep in Italy’s half. Lewandowski picked up the ball and floated a cross to the far post that was smashed home by Zielinski.
After surviving a Lewandowski scare after the restart, Italy played with more urgency – an expected change given Mancini’s visible frustration. Bernardeschi was once again the danger man, as he lashed another long-distance strike just wide of the goal.
Italy were handed a lifeline with 12 minutes remaining, as substitute Federico Chiesa was taken down in the box by Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Jorginho stepped up and calmly slotted home to the relief of the home crowd, as up to that point the Azzurri had shown little going forward.
There was very little action from then until the finish, as Italy will look to put together an improved performance against Portugal on Monday.
Donnarumma bounces back
The 19-year-old has struggled for Milan so far this season, but Friday’s match was a welcome return to form.
After denying Zielinski early on, Donnarumma grew into the match and looked settled whenever Poland pressed forward.
He wasn’t at fault for Poland’s goal, and no doubt Mancini will be pleased with how comfortable the young starlet looked in what was a big test.
Mancini’s biggest concern has to be the lack of cohesion shown by his midfielders. Jorginho, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Roberto Gagliardini looked looked every bit like a trio that had never played together.
That will give them some leeway, but it was disheartening to see how many times Italy played long balls over the top via Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
It likely wasn’t what Mancini wanted to see, but he’ll have time to correct that – starting as early as Monday against Portugal.