ITALY 2-0 NETHERLANDS
A commanding performance from Italy rendered the Dutch attack useless, as they didn’t manage a single shot on target on Guus Hiddink’s return. Two goals in the first half allowed Italy to sit back in the second half and control the game writes Ryan O’Grady.
Tonight’s game at the Stadio Comunale San Nicola in Bari was the first for both teams since the World Cup and saw the coming together of two new managers in Antonio Conte for Italy and Guus Hiddink for the Netherlands, although in Hiddink’s case he has managed the Netherlands before from 1994 to 1998. Italy had a poor World Cup despite winning their first game; they lost to Costa Rica and Ururguay meaning they didn’t get out of the group. The Netherlands on the other hand did much better than expected; playing brilliant football and making it it all the way to the semi-finals before winning the 3rd place playoff with a young team that looks promising for the future.
Italy started the game on fire scoring after only 2 minutes when a long ball from Leonardo Bonucci went straight down the middle of the pitch and Bruno Martins Indi, who has started the season so well with FC Porto, fell asleep for a split second which allowed Immobile to race onto the ball and round the oncoming Jasper Cillessen before coolly slotting home. Italy continued this domination, only a few minutes later right-back Matteo Darmian put in a decent cross that seemed destined for Simone Zaza before Martins Indi cleared. Martins Indi was then caught out again in the 8th minute when Zaza was put through before Martins Indi came across the back of him and brought him down resulting in a penalty and a red card for Martins Indi. The penalty was rolled into the corner of the net by Daniele De Rossi to keep up Jasper Cillessen’s record of never saving a penalty in his professional career. Italy completely controlled the first half and repeatedly their three centre-backs were on the halfway line and there were no worries that the Dutch would counter attack as they barely touched the ball for the whole half, their only effort was a half chance for Wesley Sneijder on the edge of the box. Due to the red card winger Jeremain Lens was brought off in the 11th minute for centre-back Joel Veltman to try and secure the defence. In the first half the Dutch ball retention was very poor and in the 19th minute they gave it away again allowing Immobile to break clear before unselfishly laying it off to Zaza who had a shot but it was brilliantly saved by Cillessen. There was a slight lull in the game for the next 10 minutes where the Italians controlled the ball and didn’t let the Dutch anywhere near it. In the 30th minute Zaza received the ball on the edge of the box and with his chest laid it off beautifully for Immobile but the bounce was slightly too high and he put it over. The rest of the half was just filled with Italian half chances including a long-range effort from left-back Mattia De Sciglio that was easily saved by Cillessen.
The second started off with a decent chance for the Netherlands, first a long ball was headed away by Andrea Ranocchia but it only went as far as Daley Blind who immediately headed it into the path of Robin Van Persie in the box but his first time shot was just past the post. Then Sneijder had a long range shot that was going wide and should’ve been easily picked up by Sirigu but he spilt it although no one was following up which meant that he could recover the ball. This was followed by an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from Bonucci from just outside the centre circle that was on target but Cillessen collected it easily enough. It was 10 minutes before either side had another chance due to the game being broken up for multiple substitutions. In the 65th minute Cillessen received the ball under no pressure but dallied on it encouraging Immobile to run towards him from the side, Cillessen tried a drag back which Immobile seemed to be the favourite for but then Cillessen fell over and won a free kick and replays showed there wasn’t a lot of contact between the two players. There was another weird moment in the 71st minute when Veltman fell to the ground off the ball and claimed he was elbowed in the chest but replays showed barely any contact at all and that Veltman was exaggerating. The final decent chance in the game came just before the 80th minute when substitute Mattia Destro passed the ball out to fellow substitute Manuel Pasqual who crossed the ball back into Destro who had made a run into the box but unfortunately the ball was just too high and the young striker could only head it over.
Italy: Sirigu, Bonucci, Darmian (Candreva 72’), Ranocchia, Astori, De Sciglio (Pasqual 67’), De Rossi (Parolo 67’), Marchisio (Veratti 63’), Giaccherini, Immobile (Giovinco 77’), Zaza (Destro 73’)
Goals: Immobile 2’, De Rossi (Pen 10’)
Bookings: Veratti 74’
Netherlands: Cillessen, Janmaat (van der Wiel 72’), de Vrij, Martins Indi, de Jong (Pieters 63’), Wijnaldum (Fer 86’), Blind, Kuyt, van Persie (Narsingh 80’), Lens (Veltman 12’)
Red Cards: Martins Indi 9’
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