Euro 2012: Fabregas saves striker-less Spain

Italy’s Christian Maggio and Spain’s Andres Iniesta battle for the ball.

Cesc Fabregas’s equaliser was enough to earn reigning champions Spain a point after a 1-1 draw with Italy in their opening match.

Italian substitute Antonio Di Natale stunned the Spanish after rushing onto an Andrea Pirlo pass and bending the ball past Iker Casillas on the hour-mark.

But just four minutes later, a typically Spanish build-up saw David Silva’s clever pass cut open the Italian defence, where Fabregas pounced to stroke the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon.

Chelsea striker Fernando Torres came off the bench for Spain and could have won the game for La Roja but he twice squandered one-on-one opportunities.

Torres was vying for a starting spot with Fernando Llorente but Spain coach Vincent Del Bosque shocked everyone by opting to play neither and field Fabregas in a ‘false nine’ position.

With Italy opting for a five man midfield, and Spain six, it was an understandably tight affair in the first half.

The best chance of the half fell to Italy’s Thiago Motta whose header forced a top-class save from Iker Casillas.

Early in the second half, Sergio Ramos was caught in possession by Mario Balotelli but the Man City man nonchalantly strolled into the area and allowed Ramos to atone for his error with a perfectly timed tackle.

Then Pirlo’s magic opened up the game. His perfectly weighted pass sent Di Natale clear of the Spanish back-line and the Udinese man made no mistake.

Like a wounded animal, however, Spain replied almost instantly.

The brilliant Iniesta found David Silva on the edge of the penalty area. He coolly flicked the ball through the Italian defence to the on-rushing Fabregas who showed the calmness of a real number nine to slot past Buffon.

With both sides going for the win, Torres came on for Fabregas and should have scored with his first touch.

Navas played in the Chelsea striker but Buffon read it brilliantly to stay on his feet, and tackle Torres with the grace of a defender.

With time running out, Torres once again found himself through on goal only to hesitate with his finish, before trying an audacious lob over Buffon which hit the top of the goal.

A point was probably a fair result and the main question for Spain now is whether Del Bosque feels the need to add a striker against Ireland in four days time, having been unable to finish off their dominant possession in this match.

(Original post: http://sportsbyte.sunderland.ac.uk/?p=15091)

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