Italy vs Spain 1-2: Ferran Torres Brace Ends Azzurri’s Unbeaten Streak

After 37 games and 3 years, the Azzurri‘s unbeaten streak came to an end as Italy lost 1-2 to Spain in the first Semi Final of the Nations League. At the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Luis Enrique’s young version of the Furia Roja gained a double lead in the first half thanks to a Ferran Torres brace, taking advantage of Leonardo Bonucci’s send off on 41 minutes.

Lorenzo Pellegrini halved the deficit for the Azzurri late in the game after a courageous second period played by Roberto Mancini’s band, but that was not enough to extend Italy’s dream. It seemed like there was still some hope but Spain – a nemesis for Italy these past few years, except for a few occasions – ultimately came back to winning ways in this eternal derby of Southern Europe.

On Sunday, they will face the winner between France and Belgium to brace for their first trophy since the Euro 2021.

Neither Ciro Immobile nor Andrea Belotti were available, so Mancini played with a falso nueve – Lorenzo Insigne, who was deployed between Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa. Spain were in a similar situation, missing both Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno – though playing without a proper striker was not exactly something unprecedented for the Furia Roja.

On top of that, Luis Enrique deployed the youngest debutant ever for Spain, 16-year-old midfielder Gavi of Barcelona. Mancini’s additional surprise in the lineup was Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni at center back in place of veteran Giorgio Chiellini.

Chiesa didn’t wait much to show that he is currently the most dangerous Italian alive, calling Unai Simon to his first save after just five minutes.

However, it was Spain to open the scoring. Giovanni Di Lorenzo showed some difficulties to contain Mikel Oyarzabal on the left side from the get-go and, on 17 minutes, he conceded the Real Sociedad man an easy cross that Ferran Torres was quick to volley into the back of the net, besting Bastoni in the process.

Things risked taking an ever worse trend for the Azzurri soon after. San Siro – at least the red-and-black part of it – had promised an unpleasant welcome back to Gianluigi Donnarumma after his controversial move from Milan to PSG this past summer. Needless to say, they promptly and untimely delivered, targeting him with boos and whistles every time he touched the ball.

That seemed to have the effect of deconcentrating Italy’s portierone, who risked committing a terrible blunder as he saw an easy Marcos Alonso shot slip out of his hands. Donnarumma was saved by the post and by Bonucci, who cleared the ball away before it could bounce into the net.

Sergio Busquets showed all his fair play in the occasion as he run to comfort the Azzurri‘s goalkeeper despite his side’s missed chance. 

Italy had a reaction that produced two clear chances around the half-hour mark. Bernardeschi was brilliantly picked by Jorginho and tried to surprise Unai Simon to the near post, but the Athletic Bilbao custodian was alert and deflected his effort into the post. One minute later, Insigne squandered a golden chance as he failed to hit the target shooting from the center of the box from an Emerson service.

On 41 minutes, the Azzurri suffered another hit. Bonucci, who was already booked, jumped with his elbow high to anticipate Busquets and hit the Spanish veteran. Referee Sergei Karasev had no hesitation and showed the captain his marching orders.

Spain didn’t wait to take advantage of the situation and, before the break, replicated the winning combination between Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres, with the Manchester City starlet heading home his teammate’s cross to make it 0-2.

Two goals down and with one man less, there is not much that Italy could do. After the restart, Mancini sent in Giorgio Chiellini to reinforce his defensive line, pulling out Bernardeschi. On 56 minutes, it was time for Manuel Locatelli (for a nervous Marco Verratti) and Moise Kean (for a disappointing Insigne). 

Chiesa gave a jolt to the Azzurri on 60 minutes as he fired a shot that made Unai Simon’s left post rattle. It wouldn’t have counted, however, as he was offside. Spain’s immediate answer was in Oyarzabal trying to turn from provider to finisher with a header that missed the target by a few inches.

On 63 minutes, a new change for Italy: Lorenzo Pellegrini took Jorginho’s place, followed by Mancini’s last move in Davide Calabria for Nicolò Barella.

Spain’s one-man advantage appeared evident when substitute Jeremy Pino cut through the right hand side and served Marcos Alonso, but this time Donnarumma’s answer to the Spaniard’s shot was much better and spared the Azzurri‘s some more blushes.

Just when it seemed that Spain could comfortably wrap the game on a two-goal lead, their overconfidence played a trick on Luis Enrique’s band. A sloppy back pass along the midfield line was intercepted by Chiesa, who triggered a deadly counterattack. The Juventus starlet could run undisturbed for half of the pitch before serving Pellegrini an easy chance for the winning tap in.

There was still hope but, while Italy kept attacking with pride, Spain resorted to what they are best at – keeping the ball and making it circulate until the five minutes of stoppage time run out. The Azzurri‘s last offenses crashed against the Spanish goalkeeper as the visitors deservedly landed in the Nations League Final.

The unbeaten streak is over. It was meant to happen sooner or later but the Azzurri did fight until the end. Next stop, the 2022 World Cup.



October 6, 2021 – Nations League 2022 Semi Finals

SCORERS: 17′ Ferran Torres (S), 45+1′ Ferran Torres (S), 83′ Pellegrini (I)

ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Emerson; Barella (71′ Calabria), Jorginho (63′ Pellegrini), Verratti (57′ Locatelli); Chiesa, Bernardeschi (46′ Chiellini), Insigne (57′ Kean) (Sirigu, Meret, Raspadori, Berardi, Dimarco, Acerbi, Cristante) Coach: Mancini
SPAIN (4-3-3): Unai Simon; Azpilicueta, Laporte, Pau Torres, Marcos Alonso; Koke (74′ Merino), Busquets, Gavi (84′ Sergi Roberto); Ferran Torres (48′ Pino), Oyarzabal, Sarabia (74′ Bryan Gil) (De Gea, Sanchez, Inigo Martinez, Eric Garcia, Reguillon, Pedro Porro, Rodri, Fornals) Coach: Luis Enrique

REFEREE: Karasev (Russia)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Locatelli (I), Azpilicueta, Sarabia, Pino, Oyarzabal (S); Red Card: Bonucci (I); Added Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 5′