Spain hands Italy first defeat since 2018 in UEFA Nations League semifinal

Ferran Torres nets brace to give Spain impressive victory

Spain defeated arch rivals Italy 2-1 at the San Siro in their UEFA Nations League semifinal to qualify for the tournament’s final and earn a chance to win silverware for the first time since 2012.

Both sides met in the semifinal of Euro 2020 over the summer, with Italy prevailing over Spain on penalties on that occasion. Not much had changed for Italy on the international scene heading into the UEFA Nations League semifinal match.

This time, Spain presented a new-look team with Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal and 17-year-old Barcelona starlet Pablo Gavira named in the starting line up. Gavi’s inclusion at 17 years and 62 days of age made him the youngest player ever to represent Spain internationally.

There were also debuts for 19-year-old Villarreal winger Yeremy Pino and 20-year-old Tottenham Hotspur winger Bryan Gil.

Spain opened the scoring through Manchester City’s Ferran Torres after only 17 minutes. Torres’ City teammate Aymeric Laporte started the attack by sending a pass out wide to Oyarzabal. The latter played a give-and-go with Alonso before delivering a pinpoint cross, which Torres finished first time at the far post to give Spain the lead over Italy.

Italy were reduced to ten men in the 41st minute after captain Leonardo Bonucci was shown a second yellow card following an aerial duel with his Spain captain Sergio Busquets.

Spain took full advantage of the extra man as Torres scored again to give his side a two-goal cushion going into halftime of the UEFA Nations League semifinal clash. A brilliant passing move by the Spaniards opened up the depleted Italian side before Oyazarbal delivered another pinpoint cross that was headed home by Torres in the 46th minute.

Italy struggled to keep up with the pace and inventiveness of Spain’s youngsters after Villarreal winger Pino was introduced in for goalscorer Torres, and they had goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and their defenders to thank for keeping them in the match.

Italy scored a late consolation after excellent work on the counter by Juventus winger Federico Chiesa in the 83rd minute. The Italian was quickest to react as he picked up a clearance following a Spain corner before sprinting the length of the pitch to set up Lorenzo Pellegrini to tap the ball into an empty net and set up a tense finale.

Italy’s UEFA Nations League semifinal defeat to Spain was their first home defeat in a competitive fixture since September 1999 and their first defeat of any kind since 2018, ending their world-record run of 37 matches unbeaten.

Spain will return to San Siro on Sunday to face the winner of the second UEFA Nations League semifinal between Belgium and France in the final of the competition’s second edition.

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