Individual brilliance from Federico Chiesa in extra time helped Italy overcome a resilient Austria at Wembley.
It was a game lacking quality in the final third in the initial 90 minutes, with Franco Foda’s side giving a great account of themselves by forcing the Azzurri into extra-time, although they had the ball in the back of the net but was ruled out for offside.
Extra-time saw a flurry of goals, as Chiesa showed some brilliant close control to fire Italy ahead before Matteo Pessina grabbed a second.
Austria cut the deficit in the final stages of extra-time when Sasa Kalajdciz headed home, ending Italy’s 10-game without conceding a goal, but left it too late to salvage another goal.
Story of the game
Roberto Mancini made seven changes to the much-changed Italy side that saw off Wales in their final group game. Marco Verratti returned to the starting eleven against Wales last Sunday and has been chosen to be one of midfield three alongside Nicolo Barella and Jorginho.
Giorgio Chiellini wasn’t fit enough to play at Wembley, with Lazio’s Francesco Acerbi was handed his first start of the tournament.
Austria named the same starting eleven that beat Ukraine 1-0 in their final group game to secure a first-ever appearance in the knockout stage of the European Championship. David Alaba started at left-back, while Former West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic kept his place.
The Austrian striker was also the first player to be cautioned by the referee on the night after he caught Barella late, being handed a yellow card within the opening two minutes of the game.
Italy struggled to insert their dominance on the ball in the early stages, but Leonardo Spinazzola began to get on the ball and burst forward with the left-back seeing a shot blaze over the bar from a tight angle.
Moments later, Barella forced Daniel Bachmann into his first save of the evening as the Inter Milan midfielder saw Spinzzola’s cut-back fall nicely to him, and Barella decided to use the inside of his right foot, forcing the Austrian keeper to save with his feet.
The visitors then wasted a glaring opportunity when Arnautovic was played over the top, beating the pace of Leonardo Bouncci, but the striker just couldn’t direct his chipped effort under the bar – a wasted opportunity.
Both teams were lacking that cutting edge in the final third, which was surprising to see from the Azzurri after their performances in the group stage, but the opening half an hour at Wembley was looking like Mancini’s men needed a moment of magic.
And Ciro Immobile nearly delivered, as he unleashed an effort from nowhere, having plenty of dip on the ball before it struck the outside of the post, with Bachmann stood still in bemusement.
Although Italy dominated possession and played some lovely football around Austria’s, they just couldn’t motivate that pass in the final third to create a clear-cut chance and were held at half-time.
Franco Foda would have been pleased with his side efforts in the first half, restricting Italy to limited chances and especially when Alaba had a great opportunity to break the deadlock in the opening minutes of the second period.
The newly-signed Real Madrid man stepped over a free-kick on the edge of the box after Giovanni Di Lorenzo was penalised for following through, but Alaba tried to curl over the wall and instead just kept rising.
Austria had their best spell of the game at the restart, but Italy quickly came back with their own threats, but neither side failed to really test the goalkeepers. The visitors began to create more opportunities as Marcel Sabiziter saw his shot deflected behind for a corner.
However, their pressure finally prevailed and just after the hour mark, Arnautovic thought he had headed Austria into the lead and broke Italy’s 10-game without conceding a goal, but the striker was judged to be offside by VAR, and the goal was chalked off. A lifeline for the Azzurri.
The newly-introduced Pessina had to hold his breath after Austria appealed for a potential penalty after the midfielder collided with Stefan Lainer, although the flag went up for offside. However, VAR took a lengthy look and continue with the on-field decision.
As the game reached the final ten minutes, Italy seemed to have slightly upped their tempo again in the search for the opener, and Spinazzola was a creative outlet once again as his floated cross found Domenico Berardi, who tried the spectacular but ended up slicing the ball out of play.
That was his last piece of action, including Immobile, as Federico Chiesa and Andrea Bellotti replaced the pair, with Mancini searching for that winner before extra-time.
However, both teams looked leggy in the closing stages as neither could salvage one final opportunity, with the referee blowing the whistle for another half an hour of play at Wembley.
The full-time whistle probably came at the wrong time for Austria as they built confidence and momentum, but Italy quickly came out of the blocks at the restart, and Chiesa tested Bachmann early on, forcing him into a low save.
But the Juventus winger only needed two opportunities and, a few moments later, involving some brilliant individual skill, thundered the Azzurri into the lead.
Spinazzola lifted the ball into Chiesa, who chested it down and flicked it past Konrad Laimer before smashing it past the keeper from close range, as the whole of Wembley burst into a huge roar.
It was game, set and match on the stroke of ET half-time when Pessina grabbed a second for the Azzurri, and celebrations could finally start in full-flow. Lorenzo Insigne fired a low cross into the middle, which Belotti battled on the floor for before it popped out for Sassuolo midfielder to take one touch and smash into the far corner.
Austria had the chance to question Italy’s resilient in the second period of extra-time, but Donnuramma got down sharply to his left after a shot is whipped in with some pace. Michael Gregoritsch then picked out Sabiziter in the box, but he missed-hit the volley and had a second chance but skied way over the bar.
The visitors never stopped trying and that finally paid dividends as a corner was whipped in towards the near post and Kalajdzic was there to flick it on, ending Italy’s 10-game streak without conceding a goal, but, more importantly, a small lifeline.
However, it was just too little too late for the Austrians as Italy sealed their place in the quarter-finals of the European Championship, but certainly their toughest opponent to date and shows that the Azzurri are just as vulnerable.