Italy vs Austria result: Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina seal Euro 2020 extra-time win

Italy 2-1 Austria: The Italians displayed resilience, and some old-fashioned doggedness, as Roberto Mancini made inspired substitutions to help reach the quarter-finals

Miguel Delaney
Wembley Stadium
Saturday 26 June 2021 23:37
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<p>Federico Chiesa celebrates scoring Italy’s winner</p>

Federico Chiesa celebrates scoring Italy’s winner

It wasn’t as captivating, but that almost made them more convincing. It was certainly a goal of different class, as Italy won in a different way.

This 2-1 victory over an assertive Austria didn’t come anywhere near as easy as the games before. Italy instead displayed resilience, and some old-fashioned doggedness, as Roberto Mancini made inspired substitutions, with two of them – Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina – offering moments of inspiration. There was an irony to the fact they won in a more traditional way, though, since that record defensive run - one set in this very game – was finally broken.

Sasa Kalajdzic’s late goal was the first Italy had conceded in 1,168 minutes of football. There were just too few minutes left in the game for Austria.

Pessina had secured the victory, but it was Chiesa that had really won the game, with one of the goals of the tournament.

There was a hint of Dennis Bergkamp about it, but much more than a hint of relief to the eventual celebrations. There was also real sense of togetherness, particularly for Pessina’s. That is what is really coming across with this Italian team, and deepens their chances.

It gives greater clout, as they used different weapons, to look a growing team. They had to show maturity here.

This wasn’t really the same Italy for large parts of the game, although there was a good reason for that. This was a totally different approach of opposition. Austria were just as willing to go for it as Mancini’s side were.

It was almost an exchange of periods of pressing – albeit without much penetration.

Italy had more of the first half and the very end of the second. There were so many one-touch passing interchanges, that came so close to creating openings.

Austria, unlike in any of the three games Italy have faced so far, were willing to step up and leave space in behind. A lot of it. Leonardo Spinazzola seemed to have the freedom of the left side for most of the first half. That inevitably produced Italy’s best chance, which was a ball in for Domenico Berardi that the forward probably should have done better with. From much further out, Ciro Immobile went much closer, smashing the post with a brilliant drive.

Italy certainly aren’t afraid to have a go from distance. There was one area where they were that bit more tentative, though.

Austria being so willing to step up, and having David Alaba on the left, meant Giovanni Di Lorenzi was pinned right back. He couldn’t afford to go forward in the way he did in previous games, meaning Italy couldn’t produce the same overloads, angles or opportunities. It was a more lopsided attack, making it a more balanced game.

This is also one of the idiosyncrasies of modern football. By being more attacking, Austria were more successful in terms of defending, and did a much better job containing Italy than any team so far.

They also caused many more problems. Marko Arnautovic had already given warning with one weaving run that used Italian defenders’ willingness to block hard against them, only to send his shot well wide.

His next effort came down to much narrower margins. Arnautovic actually had the ball in the net with a brilliant header, but his leg was just offside. It brought a raucous cheer from the Wembley crowd, which had so much of England’s Italian community that there were times it felt like a home game. Mancini used the long stoppage for the VAR check to reassess one notable pre-game call. The recalled Marco Verratti was taken off, and Manuel Locatelli was restored.

It didn’t really change the flow of the game. The more influential substitution was to come later. For the moment, Austria sensed a vulnerability. They sensed an error in Italy.

It was maybe the officials that made the biggest error, though, as Austria were denied what looked a penalty for an obstruction.

The open nature of the game soon became eroded by a more oppressive tension, as if the ticking of the clock made the players more aware of the stakes.

Every pause seemed weighted with nervous anticipation, such as when Alaba and Lorenzo Insigne stood over free-kicks on the edge of the areas.

The game now needed something to release it, a bit of inspiration, something different.

Chiesa, who had been introduced six minutes before the end of normal time, introduced all of that and more. He also did it in three wonderful touches.

With Italy mustering their first spell of pressure in extra-time, Spinazzola picked out Chiesa at the back post. The ball was good but it wasn’t perfect.

Chiesa’s response was. It was header, right foot, left. Three touches, one big goal, The winger first stopped the ball going out of play with his head, before bringing it under control with his right. The manner in which it also went through Kondrad Laimer’s legs made it all the more aesthetically pleasing, as the defender went one way, and Chiesa sent the ball the other way with some force.

That was where that touch of Bergkamp came in, even if it was that bit more rugged in the manner he first controlled it and then despatched it. That didn’t matter to Italy. It was worth so much to them. It wasn’t quite the winning of the game, though. Italy ended up needing another.

This had a quality all of its own, and came from another substitution. With Francesco Acerbi battling to win the ball in the box, it fell for Matteo Pessina to smash the ball into the other corner.

They were glad of the security when the solidity of their defence finally gave way. There was real quality in this, too, mind. Sasa Kalajdzic finally saw Gianluigi Donnarumma beaten with a superb near post header.

The record by then didn’t matter, though. Only qualification for the quarter-finals did.

Italy didn’t inspire the same awe, but that only inspired greater respect.

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