Italy and Austria clashed in their Euro 2020 round of 16 match, and even though the Italians took the hard route to victory via extra time, this match up turned out to be anything but a one-sided affair.
Before kick-off, the game was already made of high stakes. Austria placed 2nd in group C behind Netherlands, while Italy's strong form had seen them not trail in a game of football in almost 24 hours of total playing time. Austria were also battling the test of time as they hadn't beaten Italy in a competitive fixture since the 1960.
The first half was characterised with grit from both sides, Italy were firing on all cylinders but failed to convert any of their first half chances. Lazio striker Ciro Immobile came agonizingly close to scoring in the 32nd with a shot from outside the box cracking the upright.
Italy's mere 2 shots on target from a total 12 had Austria's defensive work cut out for them, but their incredibly brave efforts held them in good favour with the vocal fans at Wembley.
It slowly became a tale of two halves, after the half time break Austria turned up the heat on their opponents and began to upset Italy's structure and poise, showing some flashes of brilliance from the likes of David Alaba and former Premier League striker Marko Arnautovic.
Austria's stubborn attack very nearly upset the 2006 World Cup champions, in the 67th minute Alaba nodded a cross back towards Arnautovic who looped his header over the young Gianluigi Donnarumma, giving Austria the lead and seemingly breaking Italian spirits. An intervention from the VAR put the mute button on celebrations as Arnautovic was confirmed offside.
Italy could not settle the nerves as their second half was littered with shots off target, and only a slender lead in possession.
The longer the game went on the more it favoured Austria who were able to keep the desperate Italians at bay, and despite Italy winning a free kick on the edge of the area in injury time they were once again unable to convert, taking the game to extra time.
At the break, Italian manager Roberto Mancini was the shining example of composure, while Austria had cause to celebrate by keeping a clean sheet inside 90 minutes.
It might've been a goalless 90 minutes, but it didn't take long after the start of extra time. A cross from Leonardo Spinazzola found substitute Federico Chiesa on the right of the box, who took two brilliantly controlled touches before firing a shot in the smallest of gaps to give Italy some much needed reprieve.
Spurred on by the strength coming from their substitutes off the bench Italy's attack finally looked alive, and it wasn't long before they found a second breakthrough. Francesco Acerbi held up the ball deep inside the box long enough for Mateo Pessina to take full advantage and rifle his shot past Daniel Bachmann.
Austria were not to be outdone, in the 115th minute they finally broke Italy's consecutive clean sheet record. A late corner from Louis Schaub was met by the diving head of Sasa Kalajdzic, squeezing in the most impossible of angles at the near post to give Austria a brief glimmer of hope.
The goal from Austria left Italian fans on edge for the remainder of extra time, but they held their nerve to close out the game in extra time to join Denmark as the second team in the round of 8. They will face the winner of Belgium vs Portugal, no doubt a stern test for a tournament favourite.
EURO 2020 - ROUND OF 16
Italy – 2 (Chiesa 95', Pessina 105')
Austria – 1 (Kalajdzic 114')
Wembley Stadium, London
Man of the Match:Leonardo Spinazzola
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