De Rossi saves outclassed Italy against Spain

Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi levelled from the spot eight minutes from time as Italy grabbed a lucky point in a 1-1 World Cup 2018 qualifying draw with dominant Spain on Thursday.

Italy’s 2-0 defeat of La Roja in the last 16 of the European Championships this year ended Spanish hopes of challenging for a record third consecutive title. 

But only three months on, and in spite of failing to win, the former world champions appear to be back with a bang.

Italy were outclassed throughout a one-sided performance at Juventus Stadium, where Spain enjoyed 77 percent possession in the opening half.

It took only 10 minutes of the second half for the Azzurri defence to buckle, ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon rushing out to close down Vitolo when he ran on to Sergio Busquets’ through ball and completely missed it.

Vitolo slid the ball into an empty net on 55 minutes but spurned a great chance to put the match beyond reach soon after.

Spain were fully deserving of victory, but when Inter Milan striker Eder fell under slight contact by Sergio Ramos following a great low cross by second-half substitute Andrea Belotti, Italy were awarded a penalty.

De Rossi stepped up to send Manchester United ‘keeper David De Gea the wrong way.

Italy spurned a great chance to snatch the win in the end when Ciro Immobile, a late and effective substitute for the ineffective Graziano Pelle, flashed a drive across the goalmouth that found no takers.

The result means Italy protected their record of never losing a World Cup qualifier at home.

Only the group winners automatically qualify for the finals in Russia and with Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein included Italy are expected to battle Spain for top spot.

On this performance, the Azzurri will be up against it when they face Spain away next year. 

Jelun Lopetegui’s side dominated in the opening half, midfield maestro Andres Iniesta testing Buffon with a shot after waltzing across the area to complete a one-two with Manchester City forward David Silva.

It took 11 minutes to come, but in that time Spain had enjoyed 90 percent of the possession. By the end of the half, Italy had enjoyed just 23 percent possession and 122 passes to Spain’s 375.

Silva and Diego Costa were a constant threat in and around the Italy area, although Spain’s best chance of the opening half came from Gerard Pique.

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