London, 7 July 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Italy were pressed and pressed but held their nerve to reach the final of Euro 2020 with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win after a 1-1 last four draw largely dominated by Spain at Wembley on Tuesday.
Jorginho stroked home an astonishingly cool spot-kick to settle matters after Spain’s Alvaro Morata, who equalized in regular time, was stopped by keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The Azzurri had been dangerous on counter-attacks but it was against the run of play when they took the lead in the 60th minute. Federico Chiesa collected a loose ball to curl brilliantly into the far corner.
Spain struck a deserved equalizer with 10 minutes remaining when substitute Morata played a neat one-two with Dani Olmo before side-footing home but they could not found a winner.
And it is Italy who will return to London on Sunday for the final against the winner of Denmark v England in Tuesday’s second semi-final.
“I just want to congratulate my players, we’ve shown we’re a team and we’ll continue doing that,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique, who said winning and losing was part of elite football.
Reaching the final extends Italy‘s unbeaten run under coach Roberto Mancini to 33 games – if they make it 34 they will be European champions for the second time after their sole triumph in 1968.
Such a record would make them deserved winners but Spain will rue the several opportunities they had to reach their own first final since their last Euro triumph in 2012.
“We knew that it was going to be a very tough match because interms of ball pesssion spain are the best around,” Mancini said. “We tried to dig in when we needed to.
“However, we wanted to make it into the final and we kept trying right until the end.”
Though visiting fans were not allowed to attend due to coronavirus rules, a substantial number of UK-based supporters cheered their teams on in a crowd of 57,811.
And it was the larger Italian section which cheered loudest in the when Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti raced clear on a break.
Aymeric Laporte slid in to deny Ciro Immobile at the last but the danger was not averted – Chiesa opened his body to guide a shot from 14 metres into the far corner.
“I cannot describe my emotion by words, it was a tough match, Spain were great tonight but we come back here on July 11 for the final,” said Chiesa. “We will see, we will see.
“Spain were great, they have star players but we fought until the end and we did it.”
The warnings had been there for Spain with Nicolo Barella going through in just four minutes, though offside, and doing so again later only to be crowded out.
Spain had brought in Mikel Oyarzabal for the much-criticized striker Morata but he failed to control a good chance in the box and then Olmo had his shot saved by Donnarumma.
Italy managed only one shot in the first half when Emerson, who replaced injured left back Leonardo Spinazzola, grazed the bar in injury-time.
Oyarzabal’s fine dribble set up his captain Sergio Busquets to shoot just over as the second half started with Spain on the front foot.
But Chiesa immediately had a low shot saved and moments later he made no mistake when faced with keeper Unai Simon again.
A miserable night for Oyarzabal was completed when he missed a header from Koke’s delicate cross but Morata, with his third goal of the tournament to become Spain’s record Euro scorer with six forced extra-time.
It was a lovely one-two which split the Italian defence and a calm finish wrong-footed the keeper.
Busquets headed wide with Donnarumma nowhere at a corner and Italy somehow survived two extra-time scrambles with veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci both clearing goal-bound shots.
“We would have liked to get into the final have actually played a good game,” said Busquets. “We’re proud of what we’ve achieved.
“It was a good experience for such a young team.”
It came down to penalties and after Manuel Locatelli and the otherwise superb Olmo exchanged misses, the sides found the net until Morata stepped up for Spain’s fourth kick.
His weak shot was easily saved leaving Chelsea’s Jorginho – who just won the Champions League – to slide his shot into the bottom corner and spark wild celebrations.