Spain dominated possession and made the most of a rare Gigi Buffon howler, but Daniele De Rossi’s penalty earned a 1-1 draw in this World Cup qualifier.
These sides met again three months after Italy’s 2-0 victory at Euro 2016 with goals from Graziano Pellè and Giorgio Chiellini. As the defender was suspended, Alessio Romagnoli got his senior Azzurri debut. Spain opted to start Diego Costa rather than Alvaro Morata at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.
Both teams had won their first World Cup qualifiers in the group, Italy 3-1 in Israel and Spain 8-0 against Liechtenstein.
Costa immediately started tussling with Leonardo Bonucci in off the ball incidents, told off by the referee for raking his hand down the defender’s face.
Andres Iniesta got into the box with a quick one-two, but the shot was comfortable for Gigi Buffon. Andrea Barzagli did well to shepherd the ball to his goalkeeper and prevent Costa getting his toe to a through ball, while the Chelsea striker’s effort was charged down after a flying one-two with David Silva.
As expected, Spain dominated possession from the start and Gerard Pique’s header was deflected inches wide. The visitors lost Jordi Alba to a thigh injury, making way for Nacho.
Pique had another chance in the air, his header straight at Buffon from six yards on a Sergio Ramos knock-back.
Italy also lost a player to injury, Riccardo Montolivo sustaining a knock to the knee and making way for Milan teammate Jack Bonaventura.
Spain had 76 per cent possession in the opening half-hour, though much of that seemed to be a tactical decision from the Azzurri. They finally managed to have some chances on the counter before the break, but Eder and Marco Parolo crosses were weak.
In a couple of minutes both Vitolo and Diego Costa were booked for lashing out at Leonardo Bonucci. On the stroke of half-time, Diego Costa was flagged offside in a very tight decision.
Spain did take the lead only thanks to a rare Buffon howler. Vitolo sprung the offside trap, the captain rushed out to the edge of the box only to completely miss the ball, allowing the forward to deposit into an empty net.
Moments later, Graziano Pellè’s towering header went just wide of both the far post and Marco Parolo. Eder was incorrectly flagged offside, but had ballooned over the bar on substitute Ciro Immobile’s through ball anyway.
Immobile sliding in just failed to make contact with a deflected corner at the back post, but Diego Costa incredibly failed to receive a second yellow card for kicking the ball into the stands after an offside flag. Moments later, Julen Lopetegui hauled the Chelsea striker off to introduce Alvaro Morata.
Vitolo sprinted through the middle only to prod wide, as this time Buffon did well to narrow the angle, while Immobile had an effort charged down by Pique and moments later was halted for an incorrect offside flag.
Andrea Belotti was the final Italy substitution and it seemed to spark them into life. There was yet more controversy as the referee did not point to the spot for a Sergio Ramos trip on Eder, but the official behind the line did, and the already-booked defender did not get a second yellow.
Daniele De Rossi stepped up and converted the penalty to equalise, his 19th Italy goal in 108 caps.
The Nazionale were suddenly fired up and pouring forward, Immobile dragged back by Pique, flashing a shot across the face of goal and then he was offside when Belotti bundled the rebound over the line.
Italy 1-1 Spain
Vitolo 55 (S), De Rossi pen 82 (I)
Italy: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Romagnoli; Florenzi, Parolo (Belotti 75), De Rossi, Montolivo (Bonaventura 30), De Sciglio; Eder, Pellè (Immobile 59)
Spain: De Gea; Carvajal, Ramos, Pique, Alba (Nacho 22); Busquets, Koke, Iniesta; David Silva, Costa (Morata 67), Vitolo (Thiago Alcantara 84)
Ref: Brych (GER)