Italy 1-2 Spain: Ferran Torres double ends Azzurri run
Wednesday, 6 October 2021
Ferran Torres scored twice in the first half to send Spain to the final and bring Italy's world-record unbeaten run to an end.
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Ferran Torres converted a pair of pinpoint Mikel Oyarzabal crosses to ensure Spain reached their first UEFA Nations League final by beating Italy 2-1 in Milan.
Match in brief
European champions Italy started brightly enough but from the moment Ferran Torres guided Oyarzabal's delicious 17th-minute left-wing cross in off the far post, their world-record run of 37 matches without defeat was destined to come to its conclusion.
The ten minutes before half-time sealed their fate. First Lorenzo Insigne somehow side-footed Emerson's cross wide with the goal at his mercy, then Leonardo Bonucci was dismissed for a second booking. It got worse on the stroke of half-time as Oyarzabal picked out Ferran Torres again and the Manchester City forward placed his header back past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Roberto Mancini made a raft of changes but his side rarely threatened to turn the tide until the 83rd minute, when the Azzurri broke from a Spain corner and Federico Chiesa teed up Lorenzo Pellegrini for a tap-in. The home fans sensed a sensational turnaround but La Roja held firm.
Player of the Match: Ferran Torres (Spain)
"A great performance and his two goals decided the match. He played the role of a striker well after many said Spain had no real striker in the squad. His two finishes were real class and it was too bad he had to come off with an injury."
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, UEFA Technical Observer
Paolo Menicucci, Italy reporter
After 37 consecutive games without defeat, Italy were beaten by Spain as the Azzurri's dream of adding the Nations League trophy to the UEFA EURO 2020 one they won in the summer vanished. Small details can make the difference in football but Spain deserved the victory after a brilliant first half. Still, Italy are leaving with heads held high, especially having given Spain a fight and fright in the second half while playing with ten men. Honour in defeat.
Graham Hunter, Spain reporter
It has become a cliché but tonight it was a truism: the game of two halves. For 45 minutes Spain inflicted a very deliberate, very high-maintenance strategy. Three at the back, overloading down the left, so that Giovanni Di Lorenzo was stressed and outnumbered. The ploy yielded not just two goals but a rejig in the Italian team and soaring Spanish confidence. The second half, whisper it, was a little like the 2008–12 era of three trophies: keep the ball, circulate it, make the opposition chase it. A special performance.
Luis Enrique, Spain coach: "The game played out beautifully for us but that was a match of two rivals going at it hammer and tongs with their best qualities on show. My team looked dangerous throughout, we pressed well and I'm pretty happy. We defended by pressing high, by being brave, and we showed a brilliant attitude. But this is just one game for us, not a generational-marking win."
Koke, Spain midfielder: "This has been a historic night. Winning here against Italy in the San Siro after the record-breaking unbeaten run they were on, makes this an unforgettable win. Everything we planned came off for us, but we worked ultra hard to ensure that we achieved what we set out to. This was a massive performance, especially in the first half."
Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: "The first half could have easily ended 1-1. Spain play very well technically and we should have been more careful not to concede a second before the end of the half. It is very difficult to handle Spain's ball possession with eleven men, never mind with ten. We needed some fresh legs and I made several substitutions which helped us in the second half."
Federico Chiesa, Italy forward: "We lost after so many games, after beating the world record with 37 games without defeat. Sooner or later a defeat had to come, unfortunately it happened tonight. Great credit to Spain. Even eleven against eleven, they had put us in difficulty. Being reduced to ten men was a blow and we should have avoided that second goal at the end of the first half."
- Since 1 September 2020, Ferran Torres has scored 11 goals in 20 internationals – more than double the tally of any other Spain player in that period (Álvaro Morata has five).
- Gavi (17 years and 62 days) became the youngest player ever to represent the senior Spain side, taking the record from Ángel Zubieta (17 years and 284 days) that was set in 1936.
- Italy's world-record run of 37 matches without defeat (W28 D9) came to an end.
- Italy had not conceded more than one goal in any of their last 40 internationals before this game.
- This was Italy's first defeat in a competitive match on home soil since they lost 3-2 to Denmark in September 1999.
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bouncci, Bastoni, Emerson; Barella (Calabria 72), Jorginho (Pellegrini 64), Verratti (Locatelli 58); Chiesa, Bernardeschi (Chiellini 46), Insigne (Kean 58)
Spain: Unai Simón; Azpilicueta, Laporte, Pau Torres, Alonso; Koke (Merino 75), Busquets, Gavi (Sergi Roberto 84); Sarabia (Bryan Gil 75), Ferran Torres (Pino 49), Oyarzabal
Italy will play Belgium/France in the third-place play-off in Turin, 10 October
Spain will face Belgium/France in the final in Milan, 10 October