England 1-1 Italy
A late VAR-awarded Italy penalty meant England failed to walk away with a deserved second victory of the week. Jamie Vardy had put the Three Lions ahead with a ferocious first-half strike.
Gareth Southgate made only a handful of changes to the side that beat The Netherlands on Friday. James Tarkowski made his debut in defence and, as promised, Jack Butland did start in goal. Eric Dier, Jamie Vardy and Ashley Young also came in. Italian players of interest were Chelsea’s Davide Zappacosta, teenage AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Juventus warhorse Leonardo Bonucci.
After a minute’s silence for the late Jimmy Armfield and Cyrille Regis, and Italy’s Davide Astori, the visitors kicked off at Wembley. Within three minutes, John Stones had twice made mistakes that allowed Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile to run free. Luckily for the Manchester City defender, he went unpunished; Immobile netted neither chance. On the fifteen-minute mark, Immobile missed yet another chance, when he bulleted a close-range header over. Antonio Candreva’s cross had really deserved better. England’s first clear sight of goal came eight minutes later. Captain Eric Dier won the ball in midfield and quickly presented it to Raheem Sterling. The Manchester City livewire ran at the Italian backline, before sliding the ball forward to in-form Jamie Vardy. The Leicester man swivelled well, but fired at Donnarumma’s legs. A lively game remained 0-0.
Marco Parolo was the next man caught in possession – by Jesse Lingard, who immediately found Raheem Sterling. Twice Sterling was hacked down by a rather embarrassed Parolo. The second of these brought about an England freekick. Jesse Lingard grabbed the ball, placed it down, and tucked the ball into the path of Jamie Vardy. Quick thinking saw England able to exploit Italy’s hesitance to get back and defend. Vardy took one touch to tee himself up, before firing the ball into the roof of the net. England stole the lead, against the run of play. Marco Parolo and Ciro Immobile had further half-chances for Italy, who like Holland are not going to the World Cup this summer, before England’s Ashley Young nearly put away a great England counter, but for a vital deflection wide by Zappacosta. At the interval, a rather high-quality encounter saw England in the ascendancy.
Gareth Southgate’s men had been dictating play as the first half was ending, and the second half began in the same fashion. Ashley Young was able to get the wrong side of two Italy defenders, before Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came close, and closer, with good chances a little later on. The latter was the first to be taken off for England. Along with Kieran Trippier, ‘The Ox’ was replaced by Danny Rose and Adam Lallana. The Liverpool man has struggled for form after a perhaps rushed return from his long spell out through injury.
The match quietened down, and so England made further changes. A slight problem for John Stones saw him replaced by Jordan Henderson; Eric Dier slipped back to defence. Jesse Lingard made way for another debutant: Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook. Goalscorer Jamie Vardy was replaced by Marcus Rashford. Italy had a golden opportunity on seventy-eight minutes, when Lorenzo Insigne, of Napoli, fired a tight-angle volley very close to Jack Butland’s far post. The ball bounced just wide, but Jorginho’s ball into him was a joy to watch.
The moment of controversy came in the eighty-fourth minute, when young substitute Federico Chiesa made a long run into the box, followed by three tired England players. The referee originally awarded a corner, but after consulting with his video assistant referee, deemed that defender James Tarkowski had stood on Chiesa’s foot, and felt a penalty was necessary. There was some pushing and pulling as England were understandably aggrieved, but that was incredibly unlikely to reverse the referee’s decision and, indeed, it didn’t. Lorenzo Insigne, with only three international goals to his name faced Jack Butland. Th Stoke City goalkeeper was given no chance whatsoever by Insigne, who struck the ball emphatically into the net. Italy celebrated vigorously. The five minutes of added time added nothing to the game at all. England were looking more than bothered by the elimination of their ten-hour clean sheet.
Referee Deniz Aytekin called the game to a halt. England don’t play international football now until June; by then Gareth Southgate will have announced his squad for the World Cup. The Three Lions can reflect now on what has been an overall very pleasing international break. It ended at Wembley, England 1-1 Italy.