Euro 2012: Mario off the mark
- 18 June 2012 22:27
- Posted by Chris Eccles
David Silva and Mario Balotelli were in action as Spain and Italy progressed from Group C at the expense of Ireland and Croatia.
Croatia 0-1 Spain
In the end, Spain narrowly won the game with a late goal from Jesus Navas and progress to the knock-out stage of the competition as group leaders.
Spain started the game with City midfielder David Silva joined in attack by Fernando Torres as Spain again reverted to the use of a traditional centre forward.
A first half of Spanish domination, with Silva orchestrating the best moments for la roja, failed to produce any clear chances as the Croatian defence held firm and Spain were restricted to shots from distance.
In the second half the Spanish flair continued, only briefly interrupted by Croatian flares as smoke enveloped the pitch.
Just before the hour, Spain temporarily suspended their concentration and composure as Luca Modric broke free and crossed for Rakitic who headed straight at Casillas with the goal at his mercy.
Two minutes before the end, the Croatian back line was finally breached as Jesus Navas finished a fine move from Fabregas and Iniesta.
City Eurowatch: David Silva
Looking more familiar to City fans in Spain’s sky blue change strip, Silva provided a constant attacking threat for Spain.
It was an excellent all round performance from ‘Merlin’, who played a number of wonderful passes including an exquisite first half threaded ball to Iniesta who was unable to finish.
Unfortunate to slip at a crucial moment when through on goal, Silva was central to Spain’s attacking threat as Croatia defended stoically.
Moved into a more central role on the hour following the substitution of Torres and replaced by Fabregas after 73 minutes.
Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland
On the 18th anniversary of Ray Houghton's famous winner for Ireland over Italy at the 1994 World Cup, Italy started the game knowing even a win against the Irish might not be enough to progress.
Mario Balotelli had recovered from his midweek injury but had to settle for a place on the bench as Cesare Prandelli opted for a forward line of Di Natale and Cassano.
Super Mario had the last word as he came off the bench for a 10 minute cameo performance in which he scored a last minute goal with a sublime strike to double the lead for Italy.
After poor performances in their previous games, conceding within 4 minutes in both matches, it was a much brighter start by the Irish.
Italy began to gain the upper hand after an initial period of positive play from Ireland and the increasing pressure on the Irish goal finally told when Cassano scored on 36 minutes.
In the second half, Ireland remained resolute in the face of continued pressure and threatened an equaliser when Keith Andrews tested Buffon with a powerful shot.
In the last minute of the game, Andrews was dismissed following a second yellow card and seconds later substitute Mario Balotelli put Italy two up with a show stealing volley.
City Eurowatch: Mario Balotelli
After a week affected by injury, Mario exchanged places with Antonio Di Natale who started his first game while the City striker had to settle for a place on the bench.
Super Mario came on for Di Natale after 74 minutes and ended the game with a goal in the final minute taken with the class City fans know and love. With defenders in close attendance and his side to goal, Mario fired home an unstoppable volley.