Nations League: Italy conquer Holland again

Nicolò Barella gave Italy a deserved half-time lead with a rare header, as the Azzurri dominated the Netherlands in Amsterdam, but Nicolò Zaniolo went off injured.

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Only Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leonardo Bonucci, Nicolò Barella and Lorenzo Insigne kept their places after a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday, as Manuel Locatelli made his senior Italy debut, with Giorgio Chiellini and Jorginho returns. The Dutch beat Poland 1-0 in their Nations League opener and made just one change, new Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek in for Steven Bergwijn, moving Georginio Wijnaldum into a more advanced role, as Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij were still injured.

Nicolò Barella’s shot was deflected just over following a Joel Veltman error, while Leonardo Spinazzola ran a risk with his shove on Memphis Depay.

Spinazzola did better going forward, as he dribbled past three players to cross from the by-line for Zaniolo’s spectacular scissor-kick volley over from six yards.

Moments later, Immobile bent a low right-foot curler inches past the far post, then the Lazio striker tried to set up Barella for another deflected effort.

Italy were dominating in Amsterdam, with more possession and passes completed, but no goals. Gianluigi Donnarumma was tested by Wijnaldum’s scuffed attempt from outside the box, then Insigne saw a traditional right-foot curler whistle just wide and tested Jesper Cillessen after combining with Immobile.

There were worrying scenes on 42 minutes when Zaniolo went down in pain after seemingly very little contact. He only made his comeback from a torn ACL a couple of months ago, so there was understandably concern as he limped off to make way for Moise Kean.

However, Italy took a deserved lead on the stroke of half-time with a well-worked team move. Again, it was all down the left flank with Insigne, then Immobile’s cross for a towering header from the shortest man on the pitch, midfielder Barella. It was the Inter man’s fourth senior Italy goal.

Italy continued to keep the initiative, as a ball didn’t fall kindly for Immobile, then Cillessen flew to palm away Insigne’s strike from the edge of the box.

However, Donnarumma had his first genuine save on 55 minutes, denying a certain Donny van de Beek goal from 12 yards at the end of a smart team move.

Depay blasted over, while Kean’s scuffed finish on another Immobile assist skimmed the far post. Italy looked more fatigued towards the end and Danilo D’Ambrosio made a decisive interception to stop Depay tapping in at the back post, while Luuk de Jong’s header on a free kick was comfortably smothered.

There were a series of Dutch corners, with Dumfries unable to finish one off from close range, but Moise Kean wasted a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 in stoppages. It was a gift from the defence, he went around Cillessen, but took it too wide and fired over the empty net.

Netherlands 0-1 Italy

Barella 45 (I)

Netherlands: Cillessen; Hateboer (Dumfries 70), Veltman, van Dijk, Ake (L De Jong 82); De Roon, van de Beek (Bergwijn 57), F De Jong; Wijnaldum, Depay, Promes

Italy: G Donnarumma; D’Ambrosio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli (Cristante 82); Zaniolo (Kean 42), Immobile, Insigne (Chiesa 90)

Ref: Brych (GER)

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