Chiellini leads Italy charge past Spain in dominant display to reach quarters
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | June 27, 2016
Italy 2-0 Spain
- De Gea made super saves from Pelle and Giaccherini efforts
- Chiellini scored off rebound from De Gea save after Eder free-kick
- Morata should’ve headed past Juve clubmate Buffon from close range
- Spain struggled to cope with De Sciglio out on the left
- Buffon forced into fine saves late on
- Pelle finishes game off at death from close range
- Italy now book a date with world champions Germany in quarters
Italy edge Spain despite dominant display
Italy have reached the quarter-finals of the 2016 European Championship after a fine display that saw them dominate Spain, who humiliated them in the final four years ago and only really managed to keep the 2-0 scoreline down due to some fine saves by David de Gea.
In what was no doubt the match of the last 16 at the Euros on paper, the two teams certainly lived up to the hype, and it was Azzurri stalwart Giorgio Chiellini’s first-half tap-in and a late Graziano Pelle strike that made the difference.
Italy (now 13/2 with Coral to win Euro 2016) started on the front foot, but it wasn’t until the eighth minute that either side had a chance.
De Gea keeps first-half goal count down
De Gea put relatively below average performances in the group stage by his standards behind him, as he produced two top-class saves in just two minutes.
Firstly, Alessandro Florenzi sent in a cross to Pelle, whose header was goalbound until the Manchester United stopper somehow clawed it away, and secondly when Emanuele Giaccherini’s overhead-kick was tipped onto the post. The referee had already blown his whistle for the latter, but De Gea wasn’t to know.
Spain started to gain more possession as the half progressed, but Marco Parolo almost caught out La Roja’s defence when he met a decent cross from Mattia De Sciglio. The Lazio midfielder was just wide this time.
It was centurion Andres Iniesta who had the first real effort for the Spaniards, but his deflected shot was easily snapped up by the legendary Gianluigi Buffon on his 160th appearance for Italy.
From two centurions to another, Sergio Ramos came close to scoring in his own net on the half-hour mark, but luckily for the Real Madrid man his attempt to clear from another fine De Sciglio cross sliced over the bar.
Chiellini fires Italy ahead
Italy finally found the net, this time after De Gea couldn’t clear from a low Eder free-kick just outside the area. Usual defensive rock Giorgio Chiellini was able to get the first meaningful touch on the rebound to hit home from close range.
Sunderland-owned Giaccherini certainly had an inspired game, and just before the break forced another sensational save out of De Gea as his angled effort was just tipped over the bar.
Despite being a goal behind at half-time, Italy continued to pile the pressure on and started on the front foot after the break.
But Spain could and should have got level on 50 minutes as Alvaro Morata was handed a header from just six yards out. However, the Real Madrid-owned striker couldn’t guide it past Buffon and instead nodded straight into his hands. Too much respect for his former Juventus teammate?
Inspired Italy close to doubling lead
At the other end of the pitch, De Gea was to La Roja’s rescue once more as he blocked an Eder effort with the Inter Milan forward one-on-one.
Eder was in the mix of things again just after the hour-mark, this time as he almost got onto the end of yet another De Sciglio delivery from the left.
Half-time substitute Aritz Aduriz began to find momentum, and in turn so did Spain which coincided with Daniele De Rossi going off with a knock. The veteran Athletic Bilbao striker had a couple of chances in quick succession to provide La Roja a goal, but was unable to beat Buffon.
The Italian stopper was called again twice more with under 15 minutes to go. Iniesta was the first to test Buffon after striking a sweet left-footed volley on target, while Gerard Pique soon after forced the 38-year-old into an outstretched save.
Antonio Conte had to make some changes as his side were seemingly tiring, and Lorenzo Insigne, on for the impressive Eder, tested De Gea again with a shot from outside the box.
Pelle punishes Pique miss
With just one minute to go, Spain really should have forced the game into extra-time, as Pique only had to tap a shot past Buffon from close range, but once again the legendary stopper was at his best.
La Roja were left to rue that miss, as at the other end Pelle sealed the victory by smashing home from a similar distance to Pique’s, showing the defender how to do it, after latching onto a deflected Matteo Darmian ball.
Italy have now booked themselves in for another crunch clash, as they take on Germany in the quarter-finals after their 3-0 win over Slovakia.