England's winless start to this UEFA Nations League campaign continued following a goalless Group A3 draw in Wolverhampton.
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Italy kept hold of top spot in UEFA Nations League Group A3 after keeping England at bay in a lively encounter.
3' Frattesi side-foots wide
9' Donnarumma tips Mount effort onto bar
25' Ramsdale denies Tonali
44' Ramsdale saves from Pessina
48' Pessina blasts over
52' Sterling scoops shot high over crossbar
Match in brief: England struggle to make breakthrough
Italy, having named just two of their starters from the XI that began their Matchday 2 fixture against Hungary, carved out the first opportunity three minutes in. Lorenzo Pellegrini's clever pass dissected the home back-line, but Davide Frattesi side-footed agonisingly wide.
England grew in stature and rattled the frame of the goal shortly afterwards, with Mason Mount curling a first-time effort that Gianluigi Donnarumma was able to tip on to the woodwork.
Roberto Mancini's men looked a constant threat when attacking down the right flank and that ploy almost paid dividends midway through the first half. Giovanni Di Lorenzo's low centre picked out Sandro Tonali, but Aaron Ramsdale pulled off a smart stop to repel the strike. Ramsdale also had to be at his best just before the break to tip Matteo Pessina's looping shot over the bar.
The second period began where the first left off, with both Pessina and stand-in home skipper Raheem Sterling firing over from close range shortly after the restart. However, the sides struggled to recreate the intensity of the opening 45 minutes, despite the hosts' introduction of Harry Kane off the bench just after the hour mark.
Italy substitute Wilfried Gnonto managed to find some space in the England area with 20 minutes remaining, but could only find the side-netting with his powerful shot. As the game wore on, the visitors appeared satisfied with avoiding defeat, whilst the hosts failed to create a clear-cut opportunity to clinch all three points.
Matthew Howarth, match reporter
Two much-changed sides served up plenty of entertainment in a game that could have gone either way. Sterling will be disappointed not to have earned England their first victory in Group A3 when he fired over the bar from point-blank range, but Ramsdale’s impressive first-half saves from Tonali and Pessina prevented the Three Lions from slipping to a second defeat in three games. Mancini will be the happier of the two managers as his youthful side maintained their unbeaten start in the competition.
Gareth Southgate, England manager: "I thought we did well – I think we finished with 59 per cent possession. We created plenty of chances, but when you create those kinds of chances you need to convert them. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that tonight."
Mason Mount, England midfielder: "It's a difficult one to take because I feel that we could have come away with more from the game. We're frustrated with the performance. We want to win every game. We have looked at the last two games, felt confident in what we do but it's a tough one."
Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: "We had opportunities, perhaps more important than theirs, but the lads in general had a good game. In the first half we had three chances that we should not have missed. We know we have to improve, it's part of the path for growing."
Matteo Pessina, Italy midfielder: "In these matches the game plan often disappears, so you have to be able to see where your opponents try to attack and close down space. We played a great game: we could have won it because we had more clear cut chances than them. Still, we are bringing home a good point."
- Mancini named the second-youngest starting XI of his tenure, with an average age of 25 years and 126 days (after Hungary, 25 years and 18 days).
- The last four meetings between these sides have all been drawn.
- England have won just one of their last six UEFA Nations League outings, failing to score in four of those.
- The Three Lions have failed to win in three successive matches for only the second time under Gareth Southgate (after a run from July-September 2018).
- Italy are unbeaten in their last 11 UEFA Nations League group matches.
England: Ramsdale; James, Maguire, Tomori (Guéhi 88), Trippier; Rice (Phillips 65), Ward-Prowse; Sterling (Saka 79), Mount (Bowen 66), Grealish; Abraham (Kane 65)
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Gatti, Acerbi, Dimarco (Florenzi 88); Frattesi, Locatelli (Gnonto 65), Tonali; Pessina (Cristante 88), Scamacca (Raspadori 77), Pellegrini (Esposito 65)
What happens after the UEFA Nations League group stage?
The four group winners in League A will advance to the knockout finals with, in principle, one appointed as hosts. The semi-finals will be played on 14 and 15 June 2023 with the final and third-place play-off to follow on 18 June.
The teams finishing fourth in the groups in League A will be relegated to League B for the 2024/25 edition.