Monday, June 11, 2012

Spain 1-1 Italy: Cesc equaliser provides Fab finish to thrilling Euro encounter

Di Natale had given Italy the lead but wasteful Torres proved the villain of the piece

The fumbling toils of Fernando Torres were exposed - as holders Spain were rescued from defeat by make-shift No9 Cesc Fabregas.
Four years ago at Euro 2008 the Chelsea star was Spain's all-conquering hero as he scored the winner in the final against Germany.
But yesterday the strike berth and goal-scoring duties were trusted elsewhere.... to ex-Arsenal hero Fabregas, a midfielder by trade. He justified the selection by powering home a devastatingly slick equaliser.
Vindication, perhaps, for Spain boss Vincente Del Bosque's "surprise" decision to leave Torres, and the four other strikers in his squad out of the starting line up.
Cultured, fluid and with moments of brilliance on display, Spain and resurgent Italy traded blows in top class battle during an open, exciting second half.
But Spain's comeback and late scramble for a win also saw a frustrating 15 minute cameo from Torres that jarred with the quality on show elsewhere. He lacked the panache and confidence to convert two good chances to be a hero Euro again.
Firstly he made a hefty first touch as he sprinted in on goal allowing Gianluigi Buffon to snuff out the danger, and then a chip towards an empty goal sailed over the bar. There was also a booking.
So yet more questions raised post match about the brittle mental state he had seemed to be emerging from at the end of Chelsea's season.
It wasn't much better for Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli either. He froze when his big moment came when through on goal with time to spare, allowing Sergion Ramos to recover, and was immediately hooked by coach Cesare Pranelli.
The two goals were top quality. Di Natale had only been on the pitch four minutes, the replacement for Mario Balotelli, when he broke the deadlock after an hour, with a sharp finish.
The Udinese striker was released by the shuffling feet and burst forward of Andrea Pirlo, whose through ball was made effective by Sergio Ramos trying to play the offside trap. Di Natale's finish, delaying his shot and curling right footed around Casillas was neat.
But Italy only held the lead four minutes, as the game finally gathered the momentum that the precision passing and intricate tactical battle merited.
Fabregas fared well in his new position, carving out chances alongside Andres Iniesta. But the attacking trio was completed by David Silva, and it was his breathtaking flicked pass with the outside of his left boot to Fabregas that left Italy's previously sound defence flat footed.
Del Bosque was a relieved man at Febregas's goal, and Italy's impressive performance suggests they are contenders again after their World Cup group stage exit two years ago.
Asked if Torres confidence has been damaged again by his omission and performance, Del Bosque said: "Fabregas is a special midfielder. He is very active and can play in midfield and as a forward. We tried to use his attacking side today.
"The end of the game was the ideal moment to put Torres in. It was an open match and he is suited to that. He created some chances and enjoyed it. It was great to put Torres in."
The Italian boss Pranelli faced similar questions regarding Balotelli's miss with the game goalless just after half time. He said: "I am not going to punish him. I am not holding anything against him. I have not spoken to him so I don't know what happened to him. Maybe he had two thoughts in his head, to shoot or to pass.
"Mario needs to remember how he created the chance. He pressed the player and won the ball back. An attacker can help the team like that but he won't be weighed down by this error.
"I was not concerned he got booked and he was calm in the game. My problem, when i subbed him was that one of the two strikers needed to go deeper on the pitch. Antonio Di Natale had an interesting display and did everything I asked him. I want attackers to be 100pc and I will decide when to play them.
"As for Torres not starting we were a little surprised."
Spain ace Andres Iniesta added: "It is a bitter sweet result. It was an intense match. Italy are among the strong and a favourite for the Euros. A draw is a good result because we played well and we have trust in each other. We hope this well only make us better."

Spain player ratings

Casillas 7, Arbeloa 7, Pique 7, Sergio Ramos 6, Jordi Alba 7, Xavi 7, Busquets 7, Alonso7, Silva 8 (Jesus Navas 65 7), Fabregas 8 (Torres 75 6), Iniesta 8.
Subs: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Pedro, , Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Reina.

Italy player ratings

Buffon 8, Chiellini 7, De Rossi 8, Bonucci 7, Giaccherni 7, Marchisio 7, Pirlo 8, Thiago Motta 7 (Nocerino 88), Maggio 8, Cassano 7 (Giovinco 65) , Balotelli 6 (Di Natale 55 7).
Subs: Sirigu, Ogbonna Obienza, Balzaretti, Abate, , Barzagli, Borini, Montolivo, , Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

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