Despite making eight changes from the side that fell to Portugal in September, Italy could only manage a 1-1 draw against Ukraine on Wednesday to extend their winless run to five matches.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Jorginho and Federico Chiesa were the only holdovers, but it was Juventus’ Federico Bernardeschi that opened the scoring just after the restart to give the Azzurri a deserved advantage at that point.
It wasn’t enough however, as Ruslan Malinovskyi found an equalizer soon after – meaning Italy will head into Sunday’s crucial Nations League match with Poland having last registered a win against Saudi Arabia in May.
Andriy Pyatov was the man of the moment in the opening minutes, as he first stopped Bernardeschi’s low effort before pushing Leonardo Bonucci’s volley out for a corner.
The one way traffic continued when Lorenzo Insigne shot wide, Nicolo Barella saw his strike pushed over the bar and Chiesa was stopped by the palms of the Ukranian No.1.
Insigne and Barella ended the half with two more chances that weren’t converted, while Donnarumma was called into action by Marlos after play was halted in the 43rd minute to remember the 43 people that passed away due to the collapse of the Morandi bridge on August 14.
Given how well he played in the opening frame, it was almost cruel to see Pyatov gift Italy the lead in the 55th minute. Bernardeschi’s drive from distance looked harmless, but Pyatov didn’t get all of the ball, and it looped over him and into the back of the net.
The goal changed proceedings, but not in a good way for the Azzurri. Donnarumma pushed a strike out, and from the resulting corner, Malinovskyi fired a half-volley that bounced in front of the AC Milan man and into the far bottom corner.
It was nearly 2-1 for the away side soon after. Malinovskyi’s free-kick from distance caught Donnarumma off guard and clipped the crossbar, but the Italy man was alert enough to deny Taras Stepanenko’s header from close range.
Both sides put in timid efforts to try and snatch a result in the closing minutes, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a draw.
Barella fits in
Despite making his first appearance with the senior team, the Cagliari starlet didn’t look overwhelmed in the heart of the Italy midfield.
Whether it’s enough to keep his spot in the line-up this Sunday against Poland remains to be seen, but it was encouraging to see the 21-year-old’s performance given Mancini hasn’t found the right mix of players in midfield so far during his tenure.
Leaky defence, toothless attack
Although Italy are going through a transitional period, it doesn’t make some of the stats they are racking up any prettier.
Malinovskyi’s goal means the Azzurri have conceded in eight straight matches – their worst run since 1958/59. The last time they kept a clean sheet came in a 0-0 World Cup play-off draw with Sweden on November 13, 2017.
As for the attack, Italy have either failed to score or netted just once in 13 of their last 14 matches. The only time they scored more came in a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in May.