Italy Vs. Spain, 2011 Friendly: Late Alberto Aquilani Goal Earns Azzurri Win

A back-and-forth match saw Italy see off the world champions as the Azzuri defeated Spain 2-1 in Bari. The hosts dominated the first half, going up very early thanks to a lovely finish by Riccardo Montolivo, but Spain struck back from the penalty spot and proceeded to take control of the game after the break. Several times, it looked as though Italy were going to be overwhelmed, but they made a late push and scored in the 84' minute thanks to a long-range deflected effort from Alberto Aquilani that came very much against the run of play.

Spain quite literally saw injury added to insult when both Fernando Torres and Gerard Pique were forced off the pitch in the first half. Torres in particular is a worry - he was sent to hospital with signs of concussion in the early stages of the game. Regardless of the injuries, it was quite a good match. The visitors looked absolutely lost in the first half, while Italy looked a cohesive team for the first time in years, only for that to flip around in the second (although Italy were never as poor as Spain were for the first 45 minutes).

The match began in blistering fashion, with Domenico Criscito rattling Iker Casillas' post as the hosts poured forwards. Spain were a shambles, unable to acquire or retain the ball for any real lengths of time, and it wasn't long before Italy penetrated their fragile-looking defence. Criscito provided the assist, but there was still some question as to whether Fiorentina's Montolivo could get the job done with Casillas racing off his line to intercept. No matter - the floppy-haired midfielder flicked the ball up and over the goalkeeper and wheeled away as it bounced into the back of the net.

Italy weren't done at 1-0. There were several more clear chances in the first half, and Spain didn't get any better when Torres wobbled off the field to be replaced by Fernando Llorente. Blues shirts were swarming through the visitor's half, and only sheer luck prevented the World Cup winners from going further behind. Somehow they survived the half, and even grabbed a goal back as Llorente earned a rather dubious penalty from which Xabi Alonso crashed home.

The roles were reversed in the second half, with Spain suddenly looking as though they were playing an actual football match. Despite staunch resistance from the Azurri, it was suddenly Gianluigi Buffon's goal that was under siege. Like Casillas', it held out in the face of sometimes ludicrous odds, with the ball seemingly allergic to the net at times. And then, in the 84th minute, Andre Pirlo won a free kick (Javi Martinez was not amused), then from the shot, a corner. With the ball pinging around, Liverpool midfielder Aquilani smashed in a rather massively deflected shot that would up somehow flying past substitute goalkeeper Victor Valdez and giving Italy a 2-1 lead.

It would hold, and the world champions were beaten. Not a bad day's work for the hosts.

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