Footy Times

England and Italy play out goalless draw in Nations League

The Three Lions remain winless after a 0-0 draw with the Azzurri who top group A3

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In their first meeting since the Euro 2020 final, England and Italy failed to break each other down in front of 2,000 school kids at a “closed” Molineaux stadium. Both teams had great chances, especially early on, but were unable to convert. Mason Mount hit the crossbar in the first five minutes while Raheem Sterling produced a horror miss in the second half. For Italy, Davide Frattesi should have scored early and Sandro Tonali was stopped brilliantly by Aaron Ramsdale.

 

As punishment for the crowd violence and disorder seen at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, England had to play this home game behind closed doors. But the English FA took advantage of a UEFA rule that allows schoolkids to attend such games, meaning 2,000 youngsters having the time of their lives in an otherwise empty stadium.

Both Gareth Southgate and Roberto Mancini made wholesale changes from their previous fixtures, with the Three Lions making six changes and the Italians making nine. Harry Kane, just three goals away from matching Wayne Rooney’s England goal record, was benched and Sterling captained the side in his absence. 

 

The match began in frenetic fashion. Italy had the first clear chance within two minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini played the pass in behind for Frattesi, who moved into the right hand side of the England box. Trying to shoot across Ramsdale, the Sassuolo man sent the ball wide of the post.

 

It was a huge let-off for Southgate’s men, who tried to take advantage straight away. First Gianluigi Donnarumma gave the ball away to Tammy Abraham who strode into the box but, under pressure from Manuel Locatelli, fired off target. Then Sterling made a determined run down the right and slipped a low diagonal ball inside to Mount. From just inside the box, the Chelsea player sidefooted past Donnarumma but smashed the crossbar. Abraham was unable to get purchase on the rebound.

Tammy Abraham fires wide

Then, after Giovani Di Lorenzo’s inviting cross found no blue shirts in the England box, the match settled down a bit. Declan Rice fired just wide from a James Ward-Prowse corner, after which Italy held onto possession for a while.

 

Mancini’s men nearly made it count on the 25 minute mark. Di Lorenzo’s beautiful first-time low cross from the right was met by Tonali at close-range, but Ramsdale blocked the Milan midfielder’s drive brilliantly with his legs.

 

England subsequently created a few more openings, but the next big chance again came to Italy. Matteo Pessina passed to Gianluca Scamacca on the right side of the six-yard box. Scamacca spun and belted over the bar from close range. Ramsdale then tipped over a shot from Pessina that deflected off Ward-Prowse before the referee blew for half-time.

James Ward-Prowse takes on Matteo Pessina

 

The second half began as the first ended, with Pessina this time skying a shot from the edge of the D. Then came England’s clearest opportunity to find the winner. Jack Grealish found Reece James on the right, the full-back then curling a sweet cross into the visitors’ six-yard box. An unmarked Sterling simply had to tap into an empty net but somehow shot over the bar.

 

The Italian substitute Wilfried Gnonto fired into the side-netting after a power dribble down the right in the 70th minute. Then Kane, also off the bench, snapped a shot over from a tight angle. With 10 minutes left, Fikayo Tomori, on his first England start, produced a magnificent tackle to prevent Gnonto from racing clear on goal. No more real chances were made before the full-time whistle.

 

Although Italy had more possession, England created the better chances but were lacking the finishing touch. “We’ve been too reliant on Harry [Kane] and Raheem [Sterling] for our goals, and other players have to step into that space,” said Gareth Southgate after the match, “We’ve looked dangerous without getting the goals in the bigger games.”

The result of the Nations League encounter meant Italy stayed top of group A3, whereas winless England are at the bottom. The Three Lions will next face second-place Hungary on Tuesday at the same venue. With the bottom placed team getting relegated to League B after the group stage, England will desperately want to win. The Italians, who will not feature in the Qatar World Cup, go up against Germany on the same day.

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