Italy beat Austria 2-1 with overtime goals to reach the last eight
Italy survived a huge scare by beating the Austrian underdogs in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals with substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina scoring overtime goals to earn them a 2-1 win at Wembley on Saturday.
The Azzurri were the most outstanding team in a perfect group stage, but Roberto Mancini’s side shot poorly as they left their Roman fortress for the first time in the tournament and looked in danger of a shock exit.
Ultimately, the old adage that good teams find a way out even when they’re below their best was in order, as Italy extended their unbeaten run to a national record of 31 games, setting up a clash in quarter-final against Belgium or Portugal.
Austria, who were playing in the knockout stage for the first time at the Euro, rocked the Italians in the second half and Marco Arnautovic passed Gianluigi Donnarumma but his joy was interrupted when a VAR check for offside took saved Italy.
Mancini responded by sending in four attacking substitutes late in the second half and Italy’s depth proved decisive at the end as Juventus winger Chiesa and Atalanta Pessina midfielder took them out. prison with quality finishes.
Chiesa landed a slant in front of Daniel Bachmann in the 95th minute after showing great control to take down a pass from Leonardo Spinazzola. Pessina, who also scored against Wales, gave Italy a break 10 minutes later with a clinical left-footed strike. But a courageous Austria was not made.
Substitute Sasa Kalajdzic scored with a tilted header six minutes from time and Italy’s nerves were well and truly at their wit’s end by the time the final whistle sounded.
Mancini used all but one of his 26 men to guide Italy to the quarter-finals – the stage they reached in 2016 to fall to Germany on penalties.
Having players like Chiesa and Pessina in reserve when Plan A doesn’t work will fuel the belief that Italy, despite Saturday’s stutter, can claim the title for the first time since 1968.
“We knew we had to suffer because Austria are the typical team that doesn’t allow you to play well,” said Mancini.
“The substitutes made the difference for us, but everyone did their best tonight. I’m happy because the guys gave everything to win even when we were tired.
The Azzurri had made their way through their group games in Rome, scoring seven unanswered goals, and Mancini’s side started smooth on a perfect night for football.
With powerful winger Spinazzola marauding at will on the left flank, Austria coach Franco Foda’s pre-match claim that his side had a 10% chance of stopping the Azzurri machine seemed about correct.
Spinazzola threw a wide shot before slicing a dangerous ball for Nicolo Barella whose soft strike was saved by Bachmann’s outstretched foot, with Ciro Immobile returning after resting with the rest of the first-choice attack from Mancini for the final group game against Wales, then sent a diving right-footed strike against the 25-yard post.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as Austria exploited the space behind the Italian defense and on one such occasion Arnautovic fired a shot over the crossbar with Foda reportedly the manager on more satisfied at half-time and, as their team’s confidence increased after the break, Italy strangely fainted as their fans fell silent.
Austrian skipper David Alaba shot a free kick just over the bar and things started to get a bit complicated for Italy when Xaver Schlager and Arnautovic both got close.
Arnautovic then thought he broke the deadlock with a point blank header from a tight angle in the 65th minute, but a VAR check concluded he was slightly offside.
Mancini looked unmoved in the technical area and acted immediately, knocking out disappointing Marco Verratti and Barella, replacing them with Manuel Locatelli and Pessina. Then he threw Chiesa and Andrea Belotti as overtime loomed. The changes eventually paid off in breaking down Austrian resistance and getting the job done, but narrowly.
“It’s hard for me to find the words,” Arnautovic said. “If we’re lucky, we win the game in 90 minutes. “