INTENSE FRIENDLY SEES TOWNSEND TORMENT IN TURIN
Experimental line-ups for both Italy and England saw many players given a chance that would usually miss out. Jagielka, Carrick and Barkley starred as England scored a late equaliser to cancel out a Graziano Pellè opener, and take a creditable point home from their trip to Turin.
With Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling, James Milner and Leighton Baines having gone home injured after qualifying win over Lithuania – England put out an unusual starting line-up. Chris Smalling and Kieran Gibbs started, with Theo Walcott played as a striker alongside Harry Kane on his first start and Phil Jones and Wayne Rooney moved into midfield. Italy played the 3-5-2 formation, with Parolo, Roberto Soriano and debutant Valdifiori as the three central midfielders. The Azzuri’s injury struggles meant that the midfield was without Marchisio, Montolivo, De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo.
Parolo had a thirty-yard drive tipped over the bar, and winger Darmian was eventually stopped in the box by Jagielka as Italy ran the first fifteen minutes. England’s first chance came soon after that. Wayne Rooney found himself with a lot of space in the middle of the park and set Fabian Delph on the run down the left flank. Delph’s deflected cross was knocked down by the tall forward Kane, but Walcott could not tap the ball into the net as Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus booted the ball as far as England’s skipper. He then scuffed a volley, also deflected, which bounced back
into play of the crossbar. Italy eventually got the ball clear but England had finally been pressing. Italy took the lead in the thirtieth minute. An Italian corner flew over Bonucci’s head and reached Sampdoria’s midfielder Soriano. He passed to the wide man. That was Juventus veteran Georgio Chiellini. The centre-back cut inside Phil Jones elegantly before crossing to Pellè. The Southampton striker skimmed the ball into the net with his head. His flying start to the season in the Premier League had left him without a goal since December, but Italy had squeezed a goal out of him and the Three Lions were deservedly behind to their World Cup conquerors.
England were behind at the break, but the first chance of the second period was their own. Jordan Henderson’s long ball was nodded downwards by Rooney to Kane. The Tottenham forward knocked the ball back to Rooney. The number ten controlled perfectly before finding a great pass for left-back Gibbs. Some defenders are just not cut out for shooting and Gibbs sliced the ball into the side netting from the edge of the six-yard box. His passed shot should rather have been a slammed laced strike. Italy’s defence was very, very lucky.
England took off Henderson and brought on Tottenham’s Ryan Mason for his debut with seventy-four minutes gone. Tottenham have re-established themselves as a prominent provider of England players. Ryan Mason would have a similar start to international football to that off his club teammate Harry Kane. Mason had been on the field for four minutes when an awkward ball land ahead of him way outside the area. He tried his best to reach it and did well to slide in. His pass in front of yet another Spurs player, substitute Andros Townsend was perfect. The twenty-three year old winger took the ball away from the defence. This meant running forward but away from Buffon’s goal. Townsend then unleashed an inch perfect, weak foot drive from outside the box. It flew across goal, past Juventus’ keeper and into the far corner of the net. England, with just over ten minutes remaining had equalised against Italy and they just about deserved it.
It was a few minutes later that Wayne Rooney was given two goalscoring chances by assist magician Ross Barkley. The first saw Rooney find a hole in the defence and volley a long range shot right at Gianluigi Buffon. The second saw a long diagonal pass from the Everton ma put Rooney in from a tight angle on the left wing. He was off balance and so side footed the ball into Buffon’s legs. Sir Bobby Charlton’s record is safe until ate least June. England’s unbeaten run continues, even if the winning run is halted. It ended in Turin: Italy 1-1 England.