London (AFP) – Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty three minutes from time denied England another impressive World Cup warm-up friendly result as the video assistant referee (VAR) helped Italy salvage a 1-1 draw at Wembley on Tuesday.
England were on course to back up their 1-0 win over the Netherlands on Friday and draws against World Cup favourites Germany and Brazil back in November thanks to Jamie Vardy’s 26th-minute opener.
However, German referee Deniz Aytekin overturned his initial decision not to award a spot-kick when substitute Federico Chiesa tumbled under the challenge of James Tarkowski on his England debut five minutes from time.
And Insigne dispatched the spot-kick past Jack Butland to score the first goal England have conceded in six matches.
However, the hosts could have been punished far earlier for a lackadaisical start but for some poor finishing from Ciro Immobile.
The Lazio striker has scored 34 goals this season, but twice failed to get his shot away in time after pouncing on a pair of errors by John Stones inside the first three minutes.
Immobile’s best chance came 10 minutes later when he met Antonio Candreva’s enticing cross unmarked at the back post, but again failed to find the target as his header drifted over.
At the other end, England’s first chance took 24 minutes to arrive when the impressive Raheem Sterling played Vardy in behind the Italian defence.
The Leicester striker’s shot, though, lacked the power or precision to beat Gianluigi Donnarumma.
England have had to cope without talismanic striker Harry Kane through injury for all of their last four friendlies.
However, Vardy furthered his case should Southgate have to cope without Kane once more in Russia by blasting ruthlessly into the roof of the net from Jesse Lingard’s quickly taken free-kick.
Ashley Young had the chance to give Southgate’s men an even greater half-time lead after more positive play by Sterling only to see his side-footed effort deflected inches wide.
Italy will not be joining England in Russia come the summer having failed to qualify for the first time in 60 years.
But the difference in motivation for both sides failed to show as a slew of substitutions began in the second half with many England players unable to make an impression in their final match before Southgate names his provisional 23-man World Cup squad.
England’s lack of goals without Kane continues to be a concern for Southgate.
Kane has scored seven goals in his last six international appearances, but without the Spurs striker England lacked a cutting edge to kill the game off.
They were nearly punished when Insigne volleyed across Butland and just beyond the far post 10 minutes from time.
But there was no such reprieve five minutes later.
The decision to use VAR at the World Cup has not been an entirely popular one due to mixed results from a series of trials across the world.
But there was little controversy over the decision to award a penalty as the replay proved Tarkowski had trod on Chiesa’s foot and Insigne wasn’t distracted by a lengthy wait to take the penalty as he smashed low into Butland’s right-hand corner.
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