Richard Piggford
By Richard Piggford March 28, 2018 08:37


By Richard Piggford for EmpowerSports Magazine. 27/03/2018 ©

England 1-1 Italy, Wembley Stadium, Tuesday 27th March 2018., Kick-off: 20:00GMT

Before the game began, all 82,598 inside Wembley, rose to their feet to remember 3 greats of the English and Italian game. Since England’s last home game, came the sad passing of former England players Jimmy Armfield (1935-2018) and Cyrille Regis MBE (1958-2018). Also remembered was Italian; Davide Astori (1987-2018), who tragically passed away recently. All three were all remembered with a raucous applause by the bumper crowd.

England could have fallen behind as early as the first minute, as Lorenzo Immobile broke the offside trap, only to take a touch to many, allowing John Stones to get back and make a crucial interception.

Two minutes later, it was those two men again, as Immobile caught John Stones in possession, before firing an effort goal bound. This time the Manchester City defender got back to block well, making up for his lapse in concentration. Immobile, felt he was pulled to the ground but referee Deniz Aytekin (Germany) waved half-hearted appeals away.

England got their first sight of goal in the 10th minute, as good work in the midfield from Eric Dier, found Jesse Lingard on the half turn. He played an excellent through ball to the ever-dangerous Jamie Vardy, who was denied only by a superb tackle from Italy left back, Mattia De Sciglio.

Italy really should have taken the lead in the 17th minute of the game, when Antonio Candreva delivered an inch perfect ball onto the head of the unchallenged Ciro Immobile, who for the third time couldn’t take advantage of the slack England defending, heading over from only six yards out.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who started the game quietly, showed a great turn off pace and burst into the Italy box, going down under pressure from two Italian defenders. The referee was quick to wave away the England appeals.

This was the start of a decent spell from England, who in the same minute forced the new Italian number 1, Gianlugi Donnarumma into a smart stop from Jamie Vardy after a good driving run and through ball from Raheem Sterling.The pressure was mounting and the goal dually arrived. Some smart thinking from Jesse Lingard, taking a quick free kick afer a foul on Sterling, released Vardy, who made no mistake in firing home. Vardy finished in typical Vardy style, smashing high into the roof of Donnarumma’s goal. This gave England the lead their increased dominance deserved.


Vardy celebrates with Jesse Lingard.

32 minutes into the game, the lively Immobile, again had a sighter at the England goal, cutting in from the left-hand side before firing a deflected left footed effort just wide of the England goal.

Three very quick, successive corners from England, almost led to a dream debut for Burnley defender James Tarkowski. His goal bound effort was blocked short of the line as he attempted to stab home on his maiden international appearance.

England very nearly added a second, after yet another driving run from the impressive Sterling. He left his man easily before slipping in Ashley Young. Rolling back the years and flying into the box, the left-wing backs cross shot, was deflected just wide.

Young was involved again moments later with an extremely robust challenge on Chelsea man, Zappacosta, that was unpunished by the German official, much to the Italian’s disgust.


Half time England 1-0 Italy.


The second half started at a much slower pace than the first half ended. It didn’t liven up until ten minutes into the second period. Ashley Young played a ball, with the outside of his foot, down the line towards Raheem Sterling. The Manchester City man had no right to win it, but got in front of his man and cleverly played a return ball in to the now fast approaching Young. His effort was blocked before goalkeeper Donnaramma was forced into a save.

As the hour mark approached, both sides made changes. Candreva, responsible for the brilliant cross in the first half was replaced by Fedrico Chiesa for his international debut. England also freshened things up with Kieron Trippier and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being replaced by Adam Lallana and Danny Rose respectively.

Following the disruption to the flow of the game with the changes, A few more England efforts from the edge of the box came in, but nothing to trouble Donnaramma.

Interim Italy head coach, Luigi Di Biagio, then introduced Torino front man Andrea Belotti in the 65th minute, who replaced the misfiring Ciro Immobile. Immobile, really should have found the net on at least two occasions.

Some slick England passing around the box involving, Dier, Lingard and Lallana who worked the ball well back into the path of Raheem Sterling, who fired over with a tame curling effort.

As the 72nd minute approached Gareth Southgate, decided to make full use of his squad with a triple change. Lewis Cook of AFC Bournemouth was introduced for his senior debut, replacing the impressive Jesse Lingard. Marcus Rashford was also given a run out at the expense of goal scorer Vardy. John Stones was then also replaced minutes later with Jordan Henderson coming on to add further his full ninety minutes in Amsterdam on Friday evening.

In the 79th minute, Italy went close through a superb volley from Lorenzo Insigne which flashed just past Jack Butland’s left hand post. This was the first real moment of quality the Italian’s had shown in the second half.  This would prove to be a warning sign for England.

As the game entered its final minutes. It looked destined to finish with a narrow England victory. However, controversy struck in the 84th minute. Italian debutant, Federico Chiesa, went down under the challenge of three England defenders and immediately claimed for a penalty. The referee initially decided to wave his appeals away, deciding not enough contact had been made to award a penalty kick.  This however, was before reviewing VAR, and deciding to award the Italian’s a spot kick and a chance to level the game. After a short delay,


Referee consulting VAR.

Lorenzo Insigne made no mistake, hammering the ball low to Butland’s left, and earning the Italian’s a share of spoils.

itay pen

Insigne penalty.

The game ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw.


England XI: Butland, Trippier (Rose 59), Young, Walker, Stones (Henderson 74), Tarkowski, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lallana 59), Dier, Vardy (Rashford 72), Sterling, Lingard (Cook 72).


Rose, Hart (GK), Henderson, Maguire, Mawson, Livermore, Lallana, Cook, Alli, Rashford, Pickford (GK), Pope (GK), Welbeck

Italy XI: Donnarumma, Zappacosta, Rugani, Bponucci, De Sciglio, Pellegrini (Gagliardini,79), Jorginho, Parolo, Candreva (Chiesa, 55), Insigne, Immobile (Belotti,64)

Subs: Buffon, Perin, Florenzi, Darmian, Ferrari, Ogbanna, Verratti, Gagliardini, Cristante, Bonaventura, Belotti , Chiesa, Cutrone, Verdi

England Manager Gareth Southgate on VAR:

“I’m glad it’s not the World Cup just yet. I think the ruling is ‘clear and obvious’ and it’s not. It’s one you can debate all day.

“It looks like James Tarkowski stands on him but it’s during the running process and he’s going down anyway.

“I think the referee had a good view already. I don’t think with incidents like that VAR will clear things up. An obvious handball and stuff like that then maybe – but we have to get on with it.”

“The system can be a success. If we had it in Holland the other night, we would have had a penalty and the opposition would have had a red card in the first two minutes. Here we have suffered from it.


On the performances over the two games:

“There have been some strong performances from individuals that have cemented – not their place in the squad, 19 or 20 of those were pretty clear – but it’s often who are the next ones in if we get a problem in a particular area,” said the former England defender.

“The things we’ve tried, we’ve learned a lot. What’s really pleased me is the guys are solving problems on the pitch themselves: changes of formation from the opposition, patterns of working their way through different pressing tactics.”


Richard Piggford
By Richard Piggford March 28, 2018 08:37



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