Italy reached the Euro 2020 semi-finals with a thrilling 2-1 win over Belgium as first-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne settled a gripping encounter against the number one ranked team in the world on Friday.
However, the deficit was halved just moments later after Romelu Lukaku converted from the penalty spot following a clumsy foul from Giovanni Di Lorenzo on teenager Jeremy Doku, who was a standout performer among some of the Belgium’s more established stars
Lukaku had two great opportunities to equalize in the second half, but some last-gasp Italian defending prevented the Inter Milan forward from getting a clean look at goal.
Italy played with its back to the wall for much of the game, but Belgium’s lack of cutting edge up front meant that its veteran central defensive pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci was rarely troubled.
I don’t think we suffered too much at any moment of the game. To beat a team like Belgium, you need a great performance from everybody and that’s exactly what happened today,” Mancini said.
The Red Devils had certainly lived up to hype so far, winning all three of its group games before efficiently, if not emphatically, dispatching defending champion Portugal in the last 16.
Conversely, few had expected Italy to shine as bright as it has at Euro 2020.
The boundless energy of the likes of Leonardo Spinazzola and Manuel Locatelli have given this team an exciting attacking edge, while the return of Marco Verratti from injury has given the midfield increased control.
Belgium started this match — perhaps as expected — on the front foot, with Lukaku finding space in behind the Italian defense on two occasions early on. The chances came to nothing, but it was a sign of things to come as Belgium dominated the opening half hour.
Italy thought it had taken the lead against the run of play after Leonardo Bonucci turned home Insigne’s free-kick, but VAR ruled the defender had strayed narrowly offside.
Along with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne was also expected to miss this tie through injury — or at least only be fit enough for the bench — but head coach Roberto Martinez surprised everyone by including the Manchester City star in his starting lineup.
There were certainly no early signs of that leg injury hampering De Bruyne, who was dictating play from midfield and looking explosive on the counterattack.
After one of several marauding runs forward, a sweet, left-footed strike brought a brilliant save out of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. The young keeper was called into action again soon after, turning Lukaku’s low shot around the post.
But Belgium would be left to regret its failure to capitalize on that early dominance as Italy took the lead on the half hour mark.
Barella picked up a loose ball inside the penalty area and somehow jinked his way through three red shirts, before firing a vicious strike in off the far post that gave Thibaut Courtois no chance.
Belgium picked up where it left off before the goal, huffing and puffing but not really troubling Italy’s back line.
However, it would be Italy that scored again and it was Insigne with one of the goals of the tournament. The diminutive Napoli forward cut inside onto his right foot and curled a wonderful effort past Courtois’ outstretched arm and into the far corner.
Belgium was shell-shocked, its players stood around with hands on hips as Martinez looked on, arms folded, already with a hint of resignation on his face.
But his side was afforded a lifeline just seconds later, as referee Slavko Vincic pointed to the penalty spot following Di Lorenzo’s clumsy push — if a bit soft — on Doku.
If the opening 45 minutes was up there with the best half of football at Euro 2020 so far, the second period didn’t begin in the same manner. Both teams seemed content with catching their breath, but Belgium soon began to press forward in search of an equalizer.
The first opportunity came on the hour mark after Doku’s incisive run and pass found De Bruyne, who squared the ball across the face of goal. It looked for all the world as though Lukaku would have a simple tap in at the far post, but a deft deflection from Spinazzola just took it out of the forward’s reach.
Italy’s defenders, in particular Chiellini, celebrated with Spinazzola as if he’d scored a goal.
Belgium continued to throw everything at Italy, including goalkeeper Courtois for the final corner of the match, but in truth the Italian back line never looked like being breached.
For Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ this could well be the end of the road, but Italy — which failed to even qualify for the World Cup in 2018 — now has a realistic chance of winning a first major trophy since the 2006 World Cup.
The Manchester City playmaker confirmed why the medical workers labored across the clock to get him match by frequently inflicting Italy issues, however Romelu Lukaku twice was denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Italy had the ball within the internet on 13 minutes when Leonardi Bonucci chested the ball previous Thibaut Courtois from a free-kick, however the purpose was disallowed by VAR for an offside towards captain Giorgio Chiellini.
Spain at Wembley on Tuesday, defeat means extra European Championship quarter-final heartbreak for Belgium, who exited on the identical stage in 2016 after defeat by Wales. Belgium sorely missed their captain Eden Hazard, dominated out by a hamstring harm, at the same time as Kevin De Bruyne received his race to shake off an ankle harm.
Marco Verratti and Youri Tielemans each earned yellow playing cards for midfield tussles involving the pair.
Verratti was booked for holding Tielemans in a sort out, whereas the Belgian picked up a yellow card moments later for clattering the Italian.
Italy broke the impasse with 31 minutes performed.
When Belgium didn’t clear, Verratti performed the ball into Barella, who stayed on his ft, squeezed previous two defenders and drilled throughout Courtois.
A chunk of brilliance on 44 minutes noticed Napoli’s Insigne double the Italy lead when he was allowed to dribble to the sting of the world after which curl his shot contained in the publish.
However, Belgium received again into the sport when a rush of blood noticed Giovanni Di Lorenzo concede a penalty for utilizing his elbow to brush off Jeremy Doku, filling in for Hazard.
Lukaku stepped up and rifled within the ensuing spot kick to halve the deficit.
With an hour gone, Belgium had one of the best probability of the second half, coming agonisingly near an equaliser, when De Bruyne’s cross led to Lukaku having his shot blocked by the thigh of Leonardo Spinazzola.
Martinez introduced on recent legs up entrance with Dries Mertens and Nacer Chadli for the ultimate 20 minutes.
There was an virtually instantaneous impression when Mertens fed Chadli, whose cross-cum-shot was deflected by Di Lorenzo simply out of the attain of Lukaku and Thorgan Hazard.
With time working out, Doku fired over after beating three defenders, whereas a last-gasp De Bruyne free-kick additionally didn’t beat the Italy defence because the Azzurri clung on.
Italy will face Spain at Wembley on Tuesday for a place in the final after setting another record by winning 15 consecutive games including European Championship qualifiers and the finals.
We are really sorry for the injury to Spina, he is having a great tournament, one of the best in the tournament, we are really sad for it,” Mancini said.
The lively Doku caused problems for the Azzurri defence all night and threatened a late equaliser when he cut in from the wing to lash a shot at goal, but it flew inches over the bar leaving the Italians to celebrate a famous victory.
Luis Enrique’s Spain side squeezed past Switzerland 3-1 in a penalty shootout earlier on Friday after their battling opponents clung to a 1-1 draw after extra time despite going down to 10 men.
The Azzurri went in front when Barella lashed a shot into the bottom corner of the net after holding off two defenders in the box. It was Italy’s 10th goal of the tournament, their most at a European Championship.
Italy looked set to end the half on a high when Insigne’s outstanding curler from the edge of the area doubled their lead.
But Belgium cut the deficit three minutes later when Giovanni Di Lorenzo barged over Jeremy Doku in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, much to the dismay of the Italians, before Lukaku converted from 12 yards.
Leonardo Spinazzola performed a superb goal-line clearance to deny Lukaku an equaliser after the break, but the impressive Italy left-back’s night ended in tears when he was carried off on a stretcher.