Euro 2012: England head home after defeat
- 24 June 2012 22:49
- Posted by David Clayton
England suffered yet another penalty shoot-out defeat as Italy progressed to the semi-finals with a 4-2 victory after neither side managed to score during 120 minutes of open play.
It was no more than the Azzurri deserved on the night, with Roy Hodgson’s side often pinned back in the final third for much of the game, though it seemed as though it might be England’s night as time went on.
The game began at breakneck speed and Italy almost took the lead in the opening moments when Daniele De Rossi struck a sublime 25-yard volley onto the inside of Joe Hart’s post. Then Glen Johnson then was only denied by a fantastic Gianluigi Buffon save shortly after in a breathless start.
Wayne Rooney should have scored when Johnson’s cross found him on the edge of the six-yard box but his header went well over as England failed to capitalise on a bright start.
Mario Balotelli was a constant threat during the first half and but for a tremendous last gasp tackle by John Terry tackle just before the half-hour mark, he would have beaten Hart with a delicate chip and given his side the lead.
Balotelli then fired a volley straight at Hart and was again denied by a timely Terry tackle that ensured the teams went in 0-0 at the break.
De Rossi somehow fired wide from four yards out two minutes after the re-start and Balotelli, largely well marshalled by Joleon Lescott, again went close with a spectacular overhead kick as Italy began to dominate the game and England’s goal lived a charmed life for a time.
James Milner was substituted on the hour after a typically industrious display with Theo Walcott and Andy Carroll coming on as part of a double substitution that also saw Danny Welbeck withdrawn.
In the latter stages of normal time Italy sub Antonio Nocerino was denied by Johnson from close range and that proved to be the last real chance before extra time began.
Neither side created too many clear-cut chances in the first period of extra time, though Alessandro Diamanti’s deceptive curling cross almost caught Hart out when the ball struck the post – though it would have been something of a fluke.
In the final ten minutes or so, England clung on grimly as the Italians turned the screw with attack after attack and Nocerino appeared to have grabbed a late winner as he finally found a way past Hart, but it was correctly ruled offside before the match went to a dramatic penalty shoot-out that once again was destined to end in tears for England.
Balotelli won a war of wills with Hart to open the scoring, yet despite England going 2-1 up in the shoot-out, misses by Ashley Young and Ashley Cole handed Italy the advantage and Diamanti confirmed the inevitable with the winning penalty.