Solid defending and a faultless display from RCD Mallorca goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà helped Spain earn a precious goalless draw against Italy in Modena in the first leg of their UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off.
In a balanced first half, both sides showed their respect for each other as a cagey opening failed to produce any serious goalscoring opportunities. Five-time champions Italy had the better of possession but were reluctant to risk all in attack while their opponents, twice previous winners, remained comfortable in defence.
The Azzurrini were more adventurous as the first half wore on, however. Playmaker Riccardo Montolivo, who scored both of his country's goals in the group stage, tried his luck with a low right-foot shot from 25 metres but the ball whistled just wide of Moyà's post. Antonio Nocerino also went close just before the break, heading over the bar from Alessandro Rosina's free-kick.
Italy began the second half in more attacking mode and threatened to make the breakthrough when Rosina dribbled past two opponents and forced Moyà to dive to his left to deflect an effort from outside the box past the post. Spain responded with an attack of their own as Kepa Blanco's drive was fisted away in the 70th minute by goalkeeper Giancluca Curci.
With ten minutes remaining Italy passed up another good opportunity when second-half substitute Giuseppe Rossi prompted a superb stop from Moyà, the keeper flying to his right to palm the shot around the post. Moyà was called into action again a minute from time when he deflected a close-range header from Marco Andreolli over the bar. It was from the resulting corner that Italy squandered perhaps their best chance of taking a lead into Tuesday's second leg, as Graziano Pellè fired the rebound wide after Moyà could only parry a long-range attempt from Montolivo.