Wednesday February 6 2013
Verratti rescues draw in Holland

Marco Verratti snatched a stoppage-time equaliser as Italy held Holland to a 1-1 friendly draw in Amsterdam.

The AmsterdamArena was packed out for this international friendly and both teams fielded a 4-3-3 system. Stephan El Shaarawy partnered Mario Balotelli with Antonio Candreva, while Davide Astori and Davide Santon stepped in to the defence. Louis Van Gaal picked a young side with Robin Van Persie leading the way.

Italy were aiming to avoid a sixth consecutive friendly defeat, as the Nazionale traditionally does not fare well out of competitive games. Their record against the Dutch was of seven wins, seven draws and three defeats. However, none of the victories were in friendlies.

Newcastle United full-back santon was needed straight away to stop Van Persie getting his shot away in the opening five minutes. Moments later Balotelli fell awkwardly with Kevin Strootman landing on him, leading to a nasty cut to the knee, but he was able to continue after treatment.

Gigi Buffon performed an amazing save with his foot to deny Adam Maher from 10 yards after Santon had slipped over to allow a Jeremain Lens cross in.

Buffon needed quick reactions again on Maher’s volley into the ground after Van Persie’s effort was deflected in the box. Moments later, Strootman’s powerful finish was straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Italy finally went on the attack after 28 minutes, but both Balotelli’s assists for El Shaarawy were crucially intercepted. Balotelli chested down a cross-field Andrea Pirlo pass to fire wide.

Holland took the lead when a Daryl Janmaat cross was not cleared effectively, a shot was charged down and Lens was given far too much time and space to control and score on the volley.

Janmaat proved decisive at the other end, putting Ignazio Abate’s cross out for a corner as El Shaarawy was ready to pounce at the back post.

Balotelli controlled a pass over the top and took one too many touches so his angled drive was charged down for a corner. Abate rolled across from the right for Balotelli, but again there was a decisive interception.

From that corner, El Shaarawy skipped away brilliantly from Ola John with a bit of skill and saw his cross deflected past the near post. Abate again sprung the offside trap and rolled across for Balotelli, but Stefan De Vrij stopped it reaching El Shaarawy.

Cesare Prandelli introduced Alessandro Diamanti and Alessandro Florenzi for Candreva and Pirlo, moving Daniele De Rossi to central midfield. Arjen Robben replaced Van Persie, so Lens became the centre-forward.

John aimed a weak effort into Buffon’s arms after De Rossi’s shaky clearance, while Florenzi slipped as he pulled the trigger to fire off target.

Balotelli was getting visibly frustrated and kicked the ball against the advertising boards at full force, quickly substituted by Pablo Daniel Osvaldo while Marco Verratti replaced De Rossi.

Milan transfer target Strootman’s snapshot whistled wide from distance, but Buffon needed a strong one-handed save to deny Lens a second with his rocket.

Alberto Gilardino came on as Italy switched to a 4-3-1-2 with Diamanti behind his Bologna teammate. Buffon’s palms were again stung by Robben down the left flank and Diamanti’s free kick floated over the bar when he perhaps should’ve put it in for a header.

Robben cut in from the left to dribble past two players and his angled drive whizzed past the far post. Roma players combined, as Florenzi’s cross was nodded just wide by Osvaldo.

Italy finally forced the first save out of Tim Krul at the 85th minute. Gilardino’s touch back was intercepted, but the move continued until Osvaldo toe-poked his finish into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Dirk Kuyt had the chance to make it 2-0 when set up by a Maher angled pass, but totally unmarked just inside the area he scuffed it straight into Buffon’s hands.

Osvaldo steered a header across the face of goal with Krul beaten, but Gilardino was just a second too late to tap into an empty net from four yards.

Italy finally seemed to wake up in the final stages and moments later Gilardino at full stretch forced Krul to turn round the near post from point-blank range.

It was becoming a siege on Krul’s goal and Italy got their equaliser. Marco Verratti completed a give-and-go with Gilardino in the box and fired under the bar from eight yards with his first senior goal for the Azzurri.

Holland 1-1 Italy

Scorers: Lens 33 (H), Verratti 91 (I)

Holland: Krul; Blind, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Janmaat (Van Rhijn 85); Clasie, Maher, Strootman; Lens, Van Persie (Robben 46), Ola John (Kuyt 60)

Italy: Buffon; Abate, Barzagli (Ranocchia 74), Astori, Santon; De Rossi (Verratti 61), Pirlo (Florenzi 46), Montolivo; Candreva (Diamanti 46), Balotelli (Osvaldo 61), El Shaarawy (Gilardino 71)

Ref: Cakir (TUR)