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Baby Spain take down Italy

Ferran Torres bagged a brace to help Spain hold off a late charge from 10-man Italy in a 1-2 victory in the semi-finals of the 2021 Nations League finals on Wednesday night at the San Siro in Milan, Italy.

The Manchester City man hooked up twice with Mikel Oyarzabal in the first half to give Spain a comfortable two-goal advantage at the break. They were also helped by a sending off for Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, however the reigning European champions showed their pedigree and fought back late through a goal from Lorenzo Pellegrini to make it a nervy finish for the visitors.

Spain boss Luis Enrique surprised everyone by giving 17-year-old Gavi his international debut, and the youngster provided a lift in midfield, helping Spain get off to a good start. La Roja took the lead when Ferran Torres guided home a pinpoint cross from the left wing from Oyarzabal to hand Spain a 0-1 advantage.

Moments later it was almost 0-2, as a Marcos Alonso shot was fumbled by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and was about to cross the line, only for Bonucci to make a last-gasp clearance.

Italy had it all there to equalise shortly after the hour-mark, first through Federico Bernardeschi, whose effort was saved by Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, and then a minute later from Lorenzo Insigne, who sprayed his shot wide with just Simon to beat.

The breaks continued to go Spain's way, as a foolish elbow from Bonucci on Sergio Busquets resulted in a second yellow for the veteran Italian defender, leaving the Azzurri with 10 men with more than a half of football remaining.

Luis Enrique's men were happy to take advantage and another link-up between Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres saw the latter head in a cross from the former for a 0-2 Spain lead.

The Asturian boss was forced to go to his bench early in the second half, with goal-scorer Ferran Torres leaving with a slight injury and replaced by Yeremi Pino.

Italy brought more energy to the fight to start the second half, but it was Spain coming the closest to scoring next when Yeremi's floated-in cross reached Oyarzabal, who headed wide of goal.

On the whole, Spain were largely content to simply possess the ball and not try too hard at padding their lead, and their casual play nearly gifted what would have been a massive goal for the Italians had they not flubbed the chance off a Sergio Busquets turnover.

Back to the bench went Luis Enrique for fresh legs, with Mikel Merino for Koke and Bryan Gil for Pablo Sarabia, and it was nearly three for Spain when Yeremi crossed for Marcos Alonso, but Donnarumma did well to get low and make the save.

Spain would rue the misses, as Italy suddenly grabbed a goal in the late stages when a Spain corner kick led to an Italy counter-attack led by Chiesa, who fed Pellegrini and it was an easy sweep into net to cut the Spain lead to 1-2.

In the end, though, Spain would hang on to punch their ticket to Sunday's final, where they will face either Belgium or France.

Match Sheet:

1.- Italy: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Emerson, Jorginho (Pellegrini, min. 64), Verratti (Locatelli, min. 58), Barella (Calabria, min. 72), Bernardeschi (Chiellini, min. 46), Chiesa, Insigne (Kean, min. 58).

2.- Spain: Unai Simon, Azpilicueta, Laporte, Pau Torres, Marcos Alonso; Koke (Merino, min. 75), Busquets, Gavi (Sergi Roberto, min. 83); Oyarzabal, Sarabia (Bryan Gil, min. 75), Ferran Torres (Yeremy Pino, min. 49).

Goals: 0-1, min. 17: Ferran Torres; 0-2, min. 45+1: Ferran Torres; 1-2, min. 83: Pellegrini.

Referee: Sergei Karasev (Russia).

Yellow cards: Bonucci (Min. 31) for Italy, Bonucci (Min. 41) for Italy, Azpilicueta (Min. 45+1) for Spain, Sarabia (Min. 65) for Spain, Yeremi Pino (Min. 71) for Spain, Locatelli (Min. 82) for Italy.

Red cards: Bonucci (Min. 41) for Italy.

Stadium: San Siro.

Attendance: 20,000.

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