Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pellè gave Italy a magnificent 2-0 victory over Spain to set up a Euro 2016 quarter-final against Germany.
The Azzurri missed the injured Antonio Candreva, so Alessandro Florenzi stepped in with Mattia De Sciglio on the left. Spain fielded the same XI for the fourth game running, but with Sergio Busquets in front of the defence for more of a 4-1-4-1 shape.
Italy hadn’t beaten Spain at a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup quarter-final, but three of their last four competitive meetings were draws after 90 minutes.
It was an aggressive start from Antonio Conte’s men, but heavy rain started to come down. On eight minutes Graziano Pellè’s header on a Florenzi free kick was palmed off the line by David De Gea with a fine reaction save.
De Gea was again decisive moments later by palming an Emanuele Giaccherini overhead kick on to the upright. The referee surprisingly awarded Spain a free kick for dangerous play.
A Cesc Fabregas effort was charged down, but Leo Bonucci surged out of his own box to spark a counter that saw Marco Parolo head just wide.
Sergio Ramos risked an own goal on De Sciglio’s low cross, as he completely mis-kicked the clearance from six yards.
Italy took a deserved lead after 33 minutes. Eder’s powerful free kick from the D was only parried by De Gea, so Giaccherini reacted quickest to prod it across for Giorgio Chiellini’s tap-in.
On the stroke of half-time, De Gea flew to palm a Giaccherini curler out from the far top corner after a fine move that saw Daniele De Rossi nutmeg Andres Iniesta.
Spain introduced striker Aritz Aduriz for the second half, moving Morata out wide. Gigi Buffon comfortably saved a Morata header on a corner and Del Bosque’s men poured forward, but Eder out-sprinted the defence on a smart Pellè back-heel flick only to fire straight at De Gea.
Eder was furious when Gerard Pique body-checked him on the counter, but the referee didn’t even award a free kick, let alone a yellow card.
Some desperate defending and poor finishing failed to make the most of a De Sciglio roll across the six-yard box, as big spaces started to open up in the Spanish half.
Spain had their first genuine chance on 70 minutes when Aduriz fired wide from just inside the area. Sergio Ramos nodded over the bar from a corner and Lucas Vazquez was offside when he hit the base of the upright.
Buffon palmed an Iniesta strike out from under the bar and then had his gloves stung by a Pique snapshot as Italy began to visibly tire.
Lorenzo Insigne came off the bench and his long-range effort was parried by De Gea. Thiago Motta was booked for a clash with Sergio Busquets and will be suspended.
Spain gave it their all in the final minutes and at the 89th Buffon saved on Pique’s volley from point-blank range.
However, in stoppages Italy doubled their lead. Insigne’s cross-field pass found Matteo Darmian, whose cross was deflected for Pellè to volley in from six yards.
Italy 2-0 Spain
Chiellini 33 (I), Pellè 92 (I)
Italy: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Florenzi (Darmian 84), Parolo, De Rossi (Thiago Motta 53), Giaccherini, De Sciglio; Pellè, Eder (Insigne 82)
Spain: De Gea; Juanfran, Piqué, Ramos, Alba; Busquets; Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta, Nolito (Aduriz 46) (Pedro Rodriguez 81); Morata (Lucas Vazquez 70)
Ref: Cakir (TUR)
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