Nation League: Portugal enter semi-finals after goalless draw against wasteful Italy
Portugal became the first team to qualify for the Nations League semifinals after playing a goalless draw against Italy in San Siro on Saturday. The defending Euro champions top Group A3 and are also in running for hosting the semi-finals and finals of the competition.
It was also for the second time this year that the hosts have been knocked out of a competition following a goalless draw at the San Siro – they failed to qualify for the World Cup after failing to beat Sweden in the playoff tie.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini was making his 100th appearance for Italy, while Portugal missed Cristiano Ronaldo, who is currently on a self-imposed exile following his move from Real Madrid to Juventus.
Even without their talismanic star, Portugal created ample chances but were unable to break down the stiff Italian defence, which led by Chiellini looked at its best. The Juventus centre-back was solid at the back and set the tone for his fellow teammates with a superb tackle to block a shot from Bruma early in the match.
“We suffered in the first half when we had a lot of difficulties,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos was quoted as saying by ESPN, “The first 15 minutes of the second half were more even and after that, we were no longer under pressure. The result ended up being a fair one as Portugal were better in the second half.”
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The only time they looked likely to score was when Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma dived full-length to keep William Carvalho’s long-range shot out inside the opening 15 minutes of the second half. That was the only shot the Milan custodian had to save on the night.
But as solid as Italy was the back, they were also equally disappointing up front. They enjoyed better chances but as it has been in recent times, most of those glaring opportunities went above the bar.
Ciro Immobile had the first chance of the night after Lorenzo Insigne’s long shot was saved by Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio but the Lazio striker blasted over.
Immobile had another Marco Verratti through ball saved by Patricio’s legs, while Alessandro Florenzi dragged a low shot wide.
Roberto Mancini’s side were promising but not consistent enough and it meant they endured another long night that culminated when Lorenzo Pellegrini headed straight at Patricio from a favourable position in the dying minutes of stoppage time.
I think it was an excellent performance, although we had a quiet spell in the second half and we obviously have to do that little bit more to find the goal,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini, report the website.
“It was a step forward in relation to the last game against Poland. We are on the right track.”