Ciro Immobile and Fabio Borini weren’t enough, as Italy lost 4-2 to Spain and Thiago Alcantara’s hat-trick in the European Under-21 Championship Final.
These two nations clashed in effectively a replay of the Euro 2012 decider and La Rojita retained their 2011 trophy. Luca Marrone was the only injury absentee, while Fabio Borini again started after scoring the winner in the semi-final against Holland. In four games in Israel, Spain had not conceded a single goal and were unbeaten in 25 competitive matches. Isco was the top star from Malaga with Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and tournament top scorer Alvaro Morata.
It took only six minutes to break the deadlock. Morata turned creator rather than scorer, as he burst down the left and crossed from the by-line for Thiago Alcantara’s totally free header at the back post. It was uncharacteristically poor defending and the first goal Italy have conceded from open play in this tournament.
However, the Azzurrini hit back straight away, as Ciro Immobile ran on to a long Matteo Bianchetti ball over the top, controlled with a wonderful first touch and lobbed De Gea to draw level with his first goal of the competition. It was also the first goal Spain had conceded.
Francesco Bardi did well to beat away a Morata header from a free kick, but the striker was offside anyway. Moments later Morata did beat the offside trap, but Bardi got down to parry the angled drive.
Inter-owned goalkeeper Bardi performed another fantastic save when a free kick was not cleared, so Koke managed a back-heel flick from six yards.
Italy almost took the lead on 24 minutes when another Fabio Borini long ball found Alessandro Florenzi, who sensationally chipped the ball over the defender and hit the volley which struck a stunned De Gea.
Bianchetti kept his cool to stop a dangerous Morata counter-attack dead when it was two-against-one.
More poor defending allowed Spain to restore their advantage. Thiago Alcantara chested down a Koke cross between Caldirola and Bianchetti for a half-volley that Bardi got a hand to, but could not keep out.
The referee pointed to the spot for Donati’s tackle on Cristian Tello, though replays suggest the Inter-owned defender got the ball. Thiago Alcantara converted to complete his hat-trick.
Thiago Alcantara, who was born in Italy because at the time his father was playing for Lecce, forced another save out of Bardi in the opening minute of the second half.
Insigne volleyed over from a free kick and Florenzi spun round in the box only to fire off target, while Isco drilled wide after great work from Tello to burst past Fausto Rossi.
Tello tested Bardi again, but the referee awarded a second penalty – this one clear – for Vasco Regini’s mistimed tackle on Martin Montoya, as he fell for the dummy. This time Malaga star Isco stepped up and sent Bardi the wrong way.
Borini made the scoreline a little more comforting with a late strike from outside the box after combining smartly with Insigne.
Bartra blocked off Borini's shot to force a corner with the final kick of the game.
Italy 2-4 Spain
Scorers: Thiago Alcantara 6, 31, pen 38 (S), Immobile 10 (I), Isco pen 66 (S), Borini 80 (I)
Italy U21: Bardi; Donati, Bianchetti, Caldirola, Regini; Florenzi (Saponara 58), Rossi, Verratti (Crimi 76), Insigne; Immobile (Gabbiadini 58), Borini
Spain U21: De Gea; Montoya, Bartra, Inigo Martinez, Moreno; Koke (Camacho 86), Illarramendi, Thiago Alcantara; Tello (Muniain 70), Morata (Rodrigo 80), Isco
Ref: Jug (SVN)