Footy Times

Italy see off battling Austria to reach Euro quarter-finals

The Azzuris overcame the challenge of a brave Austria side thanks to two extra-time goals by substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina at Wembley Stadium.

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Aiming for a record-breaking 31 matches unbeaten run, Italy started the game brighter with the impressive Leonardo Spinazzola setting up the first presentable chance for Nicolò Barella, whose drive was kept out by Daniel Bachmann’s outstretched boot.

Marko Arnautović who was always a threat up front fired over as Austria displayed counter-attacks regularly. However, the Azzurri went closest before the interval when Ciro Immobile’s long-range rocket clattered the post.

Roberto Mancini’s side were less fluent in the second half and could have fallen behind twice, first when Marcel Sabitzer’s effort deflected just wide and then when Arnautović’s fine header was ruled out for offside.

The Azzurri made the most of that let-off, albeit in extra time when Chiesa prodded Spinazzola’s cross back past Konrad Laimer and rifled his finish across Bachmann.

Another substitute, Pessina, then pounced following a goalmouth scramble to rifle in the second, and that proved decisive after Austrian substitute Sasa Kalajdzic’s clever header from a corner set up a tense finale.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini continues to stress how there are 26 first-choice players in this team, and the substitutes proved him right once again, making the difference when it was most needed.

Italy were on the verge of a knockout in the second half against an excellent Austria but found the necessary fresh energy from the bench.

Italy will need more against the likes of Romelu Lukaku or Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarter-finals, but tonight’s lesson could be important for the Azzurri.

Despite of a bittersweet defeat against a cup favourite, Austria exit the competition with their heads held high. For 120 minutes, they went toe to toe with the stand-out team of the tournament and had their fans dreaming of the impossible.

In the end, only Italy’s immense squad depth could separate the two sides, but that’s no slight on Franco Foda’s squad. Chapeau, Burschen!

Reaction

Matteo Pessina, Italy midfielder: “I am still trying to take in my goal against Wales, so imagine how this one feels. I will remember it for the rest of my career. In this team everybody can score and this is our main strength – we are a great group.”

Leonardo Spinazzola, Italy defender: “I’m happy with the victory – I think we played as a real team tonight. We defended all together when we needed to. After 90 minutes, we said that we just had to improve the quality of the final passes and finally the goals arrived in extra time.”

David Alaba, Austria captain: “It’s not easy to put that into words. We can be proud of ourselves, Austria can be proud of us. We gave everything but in the end we weren’t rewarded for our performance. That’s really tough to take.”

Sasa Kalajdzic, Austria forward: “I think the whole of Austria can be proud of this team. It came down to small things that decided the game. My goal was great – I don’t think my head has ever been so close to the ground.”

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