In a dour match Italy struggled to get going against a well-rested Spain side, Amanda Sampedro's opener five minutes into the second half double five minutes from time at a late corner by Patri Guijarro.
Spain set the pace
As defensively slack as you’ll see an Italian side, the Azzurre struggled with the early pace set by La Roja, doing just about enough, the hosts kept Spain from any clear-cut chances but offered an abundance of space. The first chance of the game fell to Patri Guijarro, her snap-shot comfortably over Laura Giuiani’s bar, but the effort there as a warning.
Keen attacking instincts from Cristiana Girelli saw her pounce on some loose control by Irene Paredes as the centre back waited for the ball to come under control, the ball whooshed towards Daniela Sabatino only for Andrea Pereira to clear. At the other end, Italy fared no better, their defence still underperforming as Spain cut against both midfield and back-line time and again, slicing holes and advancing. The next noteworthy chance came for Olga García, her fine drive to the far post superbly punched clear by a diving Giuliani.
Things fast went from bad to worse for Italy with Valentina Bergamaschi forced off with an injury less than twenty minutes in, the Azzurre down to ten whilst Valentina Giacinti hastily warmed up. Spain unable to make their numerical advantage count before the substitution was completed.
A free kick at the midway point of the half brought about a half chance for Italy, Girelli’s choice to attempt to thread the ball low ultimately the wrong one, the ball easily put behind for a thoroughly wasteful corner.
Having already played too many matches in Cyprus where they’ve failed to make their attacking dominance count, the frustration began to softly creep into Spain’s game. A wayward effort from Alexia Putellas a fair way out a pointless turnover of possession, the Barcelona woman capable of so much more. Though it wasn’t only Putellas who was guilty of squandering possession, the frequent turnovers only highlighting the lack of polish not befitting of the occasion.
Both struggle with an end product
A poor low effort from Virginia Torrecilla that wheezed past Giuliani’s near post preceded a rare Italian attack, Barbara Bonansea leading the charge, the eventual effort from Sabatino a poor header that the attacker got helplessly under. Another surge forward saw Alia Guagni tear down the right wing before feeding the ball into the box, her cross pinging between the two unsuspecting Spanish centre backs as both Girelli and Sabatino tried to pounce. The result was a muddle in the box, the two Italian attackers robbing each other of a chance as Paredes ended up flattened.
The match dropped into a lull as the break approached, a scorching run from Giacinti bringing about another chance, the defender charged through the defence to latch onto a long ball. Her touch enough to take the ball away from Lola Gallardo, but with the centre backs already back to cover the line, her angled effort did little to trouble the away goal.
Following the same pattern of the first half, Spain came out firing for the second only this time they took their chances, an early corner baring fruit as Amanda Sampedro bundled the ball home. Conceding finally seemed to spark Italy into life and the side with the best group record finally started to look like a side that could trouble the Spain goal.
A disappointing free kick lead bounced back to Manuela Giuliano, her recycled ball enough to leave everyone in the arena holding their breath as it dropped down angling towards Lola’s crossbar. The Atleti number one able to get a finger on the ball and push it away from the crowded box. Another free kick soon followed for the Azzurre, this one a hair outside the box, once again the delivery lacking from Giuliano, the seats in Row G left to quiver as the ball cannoned off of them.
Italy search for an equaliser
A raft of Spanish substitutions only served to take any rhythm out of the game, Italy still flimsy with their set pieces, the game seeing an increasing amount of fouls.
Fighting a losing battle there was a frantic lethargy about Italy, the team suddenly panicked looking for parity but too many players still flat-footed, leaning back on their heels waiting for the ball instead of chasing it.
The game got increasingly scrappy as it neared its conclusion, Spain pushed back to the front foot as Italy’s ideas fast dwindled, the team clearly spent, never able to get going in the final. The match settled six minutes from time, a fine sliding tackle from Cecilia Salvi enough to snuff out an attack, the resulting corner put away by Patri with Giuliani out of position after attempting to punch clear.
With the result sealed, the Italians began to try their luck from range, the Azzurre’s late effort a mixed bag, some good though far too late, others wayward and typical of the match for them.