Report: Fabregas earns holders Spain a point from Italy

Ireland’s two other Group C opponents played out a thrilling 1-1 draw in Gdansk.

Fabregas after his goal.
Fabregas after his goal.

ITALY HELD WORLD and European champions Spain to a 1-1 draw on Sunday to kick off the action in Group C of Euro 2012.

Antonio Di Natale drew first blood for Italy on 60 minutes, coming off the bench to put his side ahead.

But only four minutes later Cesc Fabregas equalised to ensure Spain ended up with a share of the spoils in Gdansk.

The headline news which preceded the match was the inclusion of Fabregas, nominally a midfielder, as the man charged with leading the line, ahead of recognised strikers Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente.

Meanwhile, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli handed a debut to Juventus defender Emanuele Giaccherini.

After Daniele de Rossi deflected the ball into the path of Andres Iniesta, the first chance of the game fell to Spain’s David Silva, but his attempt was easily saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Andrea Pirlo then stung the palms of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas with a curling free kick on 13 minutes.

Antonio Cassano also went close, collecting Claudio Marchisio’s through ball, but his shot inside the box went just wide of the far post with Casillas beaten.

Spain were struggling to produce their usual fluidity in possession, but did threaten through Barcelona’s Iniesta, who saw a lobbed effort drift over the Italy goal.

Arguably the best chance so far arrived following Christian Maggio’s surging run up the flank.

He delivered for Thiago Motta, who saw his powerful header saved by Casillas.

Within moments of the restart for the second half, Barca midfielder Xavi smashed a powerful effort from the edge of the box, but Buffon was again equal to the task, this time diving to his right to beat the ball away.

Italy looked certain to break the deadlock when Mario Balotelli was played through on goal, but the Manchester City striker inexplicably dwelled in possession, allowing Sergio Ramos to intervene.

Prandelli subsequently hauled off the temperamental forward for Antonio Di Natale, who duly latched onto Pirlo’s floated pass and curled an emphatic finish past Casillas on the hour mark.

The hard-won lead lasted just four minutes, as some neat link-up play between Iniesta and Silva saw Fabregas evade Giaccherini, and ghost into the box to coolly restore parity.

With 20 minutes remaining Buffon did well to prevent Fernando Torres when the Spain substitute found himself one-on-one with the Italy shot-stopper.

Moments later, Sebastian Giovinco scooped a delightful pass into the path of Di Natale, who drifted behind Gerard Pique and into the danger area.

But he could not connect properly and saw his effort loop just wide of the target.

Torres was then gifted another opportunity, but he hesitated in another one-on-one with Buffon, seeing his chip over the goalkeeper go harmlessly over, as both sides were forced to settle for a point.

Next up for Spain is a match against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday, while Italy face Croatia on the same day.

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