Paris, June 27 (IANS) Italy dished out a classic performance to eliminate two-time defending champions Spain with a 2-0 win in the Euro football championship pre-quarterfinal at the Stade de France here on Monday.
Italy played with a high tempo and found their lead when Giorgio Chiellini knocked in an Eder free-kick that moved slightly away after being blocked by goalkeeper David De Gea in the 33rd minute before Graziano Pelle slammed home the second goal in the 90+1 minute for the 2-0 victory.
Anotonio Conte-coached Italy will meet reigning world champions Germany in the quarter-finals on Saturday. Germany blasted past Slovakia 3-0 on Sunday.
Italy started the match on a brilliant note, playing with a 3-5-2 formation that helped them gather pace and numbers in attack immensely.
Spain goalkeeper De Gea was asked to bring his sharp reflexes with only six minutes into the match as striker Pelle got above Busquets to thump a header towards the bottom corner from seven yards but the goalkeeper jumped to his left to keep it away.
Five minutes later, Alessandro Florenzi stood up a cross to the far post, where Pelle headed it back across the face and Emanuele Giaccherini improvised to steer an overhead kick towards goal but De Gea got down to his left to push it onto the post.
Spain, a team known for keeping possession, struggled a lot to keep the Italians away. Spain tried to break the tempo of Italy but the wingers — Marco Parolo, Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia De Sciglio, Giaccherini mounted a lot of pressure.
Spain captain Sergio Ramos brought down Pelle just outside the box and it led to a free-kick. Eder’s low free-kick got barely rebounded off Manchester United goalkeeper De Gea but Giaccherini held it away, enabling Chiellini to pushed it in from six yards to give Italy the 1-0 lead.
Late in the first half, De Gea again came to Spain’s rescue when he flew left to tip over a brilliant corner from Giaccherini as Italy led 1-0 at half-time.
Trailing by a goal and up against a strong defence, Spain replaced Nolito with experienced Athletic Bilbao central striker Aritz Aduriz.
Spain looked to be recovering at the start of the first half but two headers fell straight at veteran Italian goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon.
However, Italy were in no mood to contnue their good show and Eder led a fierce counter-attack only to hit directly at De Gea in an one-on-one situation.
Later, a desperate Spain continued to search for their equaliser. Maintaning the ball possession, they took the attack to the oppositon and tested Buffon twice — once to the left to deny Iniesta’s lob and later a volley from Gerard Pique on the right.
Pique too later tested Buffon with a silky low dribe but Buffon kept it away, much to the relief of the Italian camp.
As the Spaniards camped in the Italian half in their bid to equalise, Italy refused to bog down and in a fierce counter-attack, substitute Matteo Darmian’s cross inside the Spanish box from the right was deflected on to the path of Pelle, who slammed it home to make it 2-0.