Bologna (Italy), Sep 8 (IANS) Jorginho’s conversion from the penalty spot in the 80th minute allowed Italy to salvage a 1-1 draw against Poland in the UEFA Nations League opener for both teams.
Roughly 20,000 spectators showed up at Bologna’s Renato Dall’Ara stadium for Italy’s first official match since the October 2017 loss to Sweden in a 2018 World Cup qualifier that left the Azzurri excluded from the global tournament for the first time in 60 years, reports Efe news.
The hosts, with new coach Roberto Mancini at the helm, struggled to create any chances in the first half against a well-organized Polish side that was sound on defense and opportunistic on the attack on Friday.
Stepping into the shoes of the legendary Gigi Buffon, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept his squad in the match with fine saves against Piotr Zielinski in the 4th minute and Grzegorz Krychowiak in the 26th.
But there was nothing Donnarumma could do to stop Zielinski scoring in the 40th minute after a mistake by Jorginho ended with the ball on the foot of Robert Lewandowski, whose cross found his teammate unmarked at the far post.
Italy’s sole chance in the first half was a strike by Federico Bernardeschi from just outside the box that went wide.
Whistled off the field at half-time by the home supporters, the Azzurri were more lively after the break and Bernardeschi came close in the 52nd minute.
Mancini turned to his bench for help, replacing Lorenzo Insigne with Federico Chiesa and Mario Balotelli with Andrea Belotti, and Italy began to lift the pace as Poland fell back to defend their lead.
Even so, the equalizer might never have come but for Jakub Blaszczykowski’s clumsy foul against Chiesa in the box, which gave Jorginho the opportunity to redeem himself.