Italy left no doubts as to who was the better side against the Netherlands on Monday, though there is some regret for Roberto Mancini’s side as they only managed a 1-0 victory.
Nicolo Barella netted the lone goal of the contest before the end of the first half, as he got his head on the end of a Ciro Immobile cross to send the Azzurri atop the Nations League A Group 1 standings with four points from two matches.
The final score doesn’t accurately reflect Italy’s quality of play, as they were clearly the better side for much of the contest. A lack of finishing and dwindling fitness towards the end of the match are things Mancini will no doubt look to work on, but there were plenty of positives to take from the contest.
One worry is the fitness of Nicolo Zaniolo, as the Roma man was forced off in the first half with what looked like a potential knee injury.
Italy looked strong out of the gate, with Barella firing a shot that Joel Veltman deflected just over the bar.
Leonardo Spinazzola dribbled his way past three Dutch players and picked out Zaniolo at the far post, but he couldn’t keep his spectacular scissor-kick on target.
Immobile curled a right-footed effort inches wide of the far post, while the home side responded via a Georginio Wijnaldum shot that Gianluigi Donnarumma stopped in two attempts.
Italy’s encouraging first half performances was blighted on 42 minutes when Zaniolo went down after a slight coming together. Mancini took no chances given his recent return from a torn ACL and replaced the Roma man with Moise Kean.
The Azzurri headed into the half on a positive note however as they took the lead after some slick passing. Lorenzo Insigne and Immobile worked their way down the left, with the Lazio man picking out Barella with a pinpoint cross that the Inter man headed home.
Immobile couldn’t take advantage of a Hans Hateboer mistake as the Dutch cleared the ball to start the second half, while Insigne forced Jasper Cillessen into a great save with another patented right-footed curler.
Donny van de Beek looked set to make it 1-1 as he fired on goal from inside the penalty area, however Donnarumma showed he was up to the challenge and pushed the ball out from under the bar in spectacular fashion.
Italy continued to control proceedings from there, however they failed to make the most of a dangerous counter while Kean sent a scuffed shot just wide of the far post.
Kean should have wrapped up proceedings in the closing minutes as he took advantage of a wayward Dutch pass. He found his way past Cillessen but pushed the ball too far wide, which resulted in him firing over the empty net.
In the end it made no difference as Italy now sit atop the standings with four points from two matches, while the Netherlands are level with Poland – who defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 on Monday -on three points.