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Subs fire Italy into quarter-finals after extra time against stubborn Austria

Italy were taken to extra time by Austria in their toughest challenge of Euro 2020 so far, but managed to claim a 2-1 win thanks to two substitutes.

Italy had been one of the standout teams from the group stages, but looked far less effective against Austria. Their opponents frustrated them at Wembley and looked the more likely to score. Ultimately, neither side could find the back of the net (except for a disallowed Austria goal) within 90 minutes.

But Roberto Mancini’s side made a quick start to extra time and goals from substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina sealed their place in the quarter-finals.

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Italy’s main avenue of danger early on was down the left-hand side, where Leonardo Spinazzola was continuing his impressive tournament. He had the first decent attempt of the match, but fired an effort into the side-netting.

The same channel led to another chance when Lorenzo Insigne found some space and had a go at goal. However, it was a comfortable save for Austria keeper Daniel Bachmann.

Bachmann was tested more by a strike from Nicolo Barella from the centre of the box, keeping it out with his right foot.

At the other end, Austria got their first opening when Marko Arnautovic latched on to a ball over the defence. However, as it bounced in front of him, he couldn’t keep his shot down.

Italy got in behind next, when Barella fed Ciro Immobile through. But the Lazio striker mis-controlled it, allowing defenders to catch up with him before he wasted the chance.

Immobile went much closer with his next effort, sending the ball crashing against the woodwork from the edge of the box. It was the best chance of the half, but the game remained goalless at half-time.

Austria force extra time

Austria had the first opportunity after the break, when Leonardo Bonucci failed to control the ball and gifted it to Arnautovic. He ran in on goal, but was eventually crowded out and failed to test Gianluigi Donnarumma.

His teammates kept up the pressure and won a free kick on the edge of the box soon after. It was almost too close, though, and David Alaba could not get the ball up and down before it sailed over the bar.

Arnautovic had another attempt as the game passed the hour mark. This time, his shot was deflected wide, and the resulting corner led to little danger.

But soon after, their pressure paid off and they thought they had become the first team to score against Italy in 12 games. Arnautovic arched his run and headed home from a tight angle, seemingly ending Italy’s long run of consecutive clean sheets.

However, the goal was checked by VAR and it was deemed that the attacker was offside, so the goal was chalked off and Italy’s record remained intact.

You didn’t REALLY think Italy had conceded for the first time in 12 games, did you?

Watch and listen on the BBC #Euro2020 #bbceuro2020

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 26, 2021

But they were given another wake-up call almost immediately afterwards, when Marcel Sabitzer fired a shot wide. Austria were very much in the ascendancy.

Italy made two changes to freshen things up, bringing midfielders Manuel Locatelli and Pessina on to change the tempo. Locatelli almost made a quick impact with a shot from outside the box, but it was off target.

Next, Insigne cut in and unsuccessfully tried to curl one in from a tight angle, in an action that summed up Italy’s frustrations.

Austria appealed for a penalty when Pessina brought down Stefan Lainer in the box. There was a pause for VAR to take a look, but there was an offside, so there could be no spot kick.

Time was running out for Italy and perhaps the pressure was getting to them. It was epitomised when Domenico Berardi foolishly tried to connect with a decent cross from Spinazzola with an acrobatic finish, which was poor to say the least.

It was his last involvement, as Mancini immediately took him and the equally ineffective Immobile off in a double change.

As the final minute of five added on approached, Italy won a free kick out wide on the edge of the area. But Lainer successfully cleared the cross to send the game into extra time.

Italy make good start to last 30 mins

One of Italy’s later substitutes, Chiesa had a shot on target early in extra time, but it was saved by Bachmann. Still, it was an improvement on what they had managed in the 90 minutes – and he soon went one better.

Chiesa finally gave Italy the lead five minutes into extra time, firing home with his left foot after being picked out by Spinazzola and controlling the ball brilliantly.

It was going to take something special to break the deadlock in this game.

Step forward, Federico Chiesa!

Watch and listen on the BBC #Euro2020 #bbceuro2020

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 26, 2021

Italy were now getting back to being themselves and could have doubled their lead when Insigne forced a smart save from Bachmann with a free kick.

Shortly after, they did get their second goal – once again thanks to a substitute. Francesco Acerbi held the ball up in the box for Pessina, who struck the ball with his left foot into the bottom corner.

Austria weren’t ready to give in yet, though. As the second half of extra time began, Louis Schaub forced Donnarumma into a strong one-handed save.

Italy had a chance at the other end, but Andrea Belotti fluffed his lines.

Next, there was a charging run from full-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo from his own defensive third to the edge of the area. He aimed off target with his shot, though.

Austria now had 10 minutes to find two goals and they could have got one when Sabitzer had a double chance. However, he sliced the second shot off target.

They did pull one goal back with six minutes left, though. Schaub swung a low corner in and Sasa Kalajdzic stooped down to head it in at the nearpost.

How did he get down to that!

Watch and listen on the BBC #Euro2020 #bbceuro2020

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 26, 2021

The ending to the game was frantic, but there were no further goals. Thus, Italy will be in the quarter-finals as they look to continue establishing themselves as one of the favourites. But this was a stern test of their credentials.

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