Federico Chiesa came off the bench and earned a penalty, converted by Jorginho, as Italy cancelled out Piotr Zielinski’s Poland opener.
The Azzurri opened their UEFA Nations League campaign at the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna, as Roberto Mancini made his competitive debut as Italy Coach where he had his first Serie A appearances aged 16. Fiorentina full-back Cristiano Biraghi was given his first senior cap in a 4-3-3 formation with Jorginho pulling the midfield strings, but Roberto Gagliardini surprisingly picked ahead of Marco Benassi. Poland started Sampdoria’s Bartosz Bereszynski, Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski and Atalanta full-back Arkadiusz Reca.
Gagliardini gave away the ball in midfield and Robert Lewandowski sent Zielinski clear through the middle, but Gianluigi Donnarumma denied him one-on-one with a sensational reaction save.
Federico Bernardeschi’s free kick sailed over the bar after Davide Zappacosta’s ‘ruleta’ to spin between two defenders saw him brought down, while Lorenzo Insigne’s half-volley flashed not far off target.
Italy’s first real chance came at the 37th minute, as Bernardeschi got between centre-backs and his finish skimmed the far post.
However, Poland took the lead when Jorginho was caught in possession and Lewandowski floated the cross for unmarked Zielinski to volley in from 10 yards.
Jorginho tried to make amends, his strike from a corner deflected wide by Kamil Glik, but Italy repeatedly gave away the ball with predictable midfield passes, sparking dangerous counter-attacks.
Milan midfielder Jack Bonaventura replaced Lorenzo Pellegrini for the restart, but there was immediately a similar scenario with Lewandowski leaning back to volley a deflected Jakub Blaszczykowski cross over.
Ex-Torino defender Glik was decisive again on Balotelli, intercepting a cross at the near post, Lukasz Fabianski plucked a Cristiano Biraghi ball off the head of Balo and Bernardeschi’s left-foot screamer flashed just past the far post.
Bonaventura saw an attempt cleared off the line, but only after Gagliardini was flagged offside. Federico Chiesa came off the bench and straight away forced a save from Fabianski with his shot deflected by Glik.
Chiesa immediately made a huge impression, as he burst into the box and was brought down by Blaszczykowski for a penalty. Jorginho converted to equalise and score his first goal in an Italy jersey.
Although the Azzurri poured forward trying to find a winner, they were ultimately content with the point. They visit Portugal in Lisbon on Monday evening.
Italy 1-1 Poland
Zielinski 40 (P), Jorginho pen 77 (I)
Italy: G Donnarumma; Zappacosta, Bonucci, Chiellini, Biraghi; Pellegrini (Bonaventura 46), Jorginho, Gagliardini; Bernardeschi, Balotelli (Belotti 61), Insigne (Chiesa 72)
Poland: Fabianski; Bereszynski, Glik, Bednarek, Reca; Blaszczykowski (Pietrzak 80), Krychowiak, Klich (Szymanski 56), Kurzawa; Zielinski (Linetty 66); Lewandowski
Ref: Zwayer (GER)