Jun 14, 2014 10:05 PM by Posted by Greg Smith
Italy held out against diligent England to earn a 2-1 win, courtesy of goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli, which leaves them second on goal difference in Group D at the 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilTM. Daniel Sturridge had equalised soon after the Juventus midfielder had opened the scoring, but Cesare Prandelli's side held on to their lead for the second time following an early goal after the break.
England began brightly, looking to improve on a record of just one competitive win over Gli Azzurri, as Raheem Sterling rippled the side-netting from range with a rasping effort, before Jordan Henderson forced Salvatore Sirigu into a low save inside the first five minutes.
Antonio Candreva gave Joe Hart a similar test at the other end, but his left-footed strike was dealt with - albeit uncomfortably - by the Manchester City goalkeeper. England continued to look the more threatening though, with Daniele De Rossi going agonisingly close to turning into his own net, diverting Danny Welbeck's cross away from Sturridge and just beyond the far post.
While clear-cut chances were hard to come by, Italy's midfield still looked capable of carving out opportunities, and it was a routine from the training ground that exposed England. A short corner was cut back towards the edge of area and, when Andrea Pirlo dummied superbly, Marchisio had time and space to sweetly fire into the bottom corner.
The Three Lions were behind for just two minutes, however, as Wayne Rooney broke well down the left wing, finding the unmarked Sturridge at the far post who just had to side-foot past Sirigu.
Italy were almost back in front on the stroke of half-time though, with Mario Balotelli almost scoring a spectacular lob from the left side of the area which had to be cleared off the line by Phil Jagielka. Candreva then rattled the post from the resulting corner.
Sirigu was the first goalkeeper forced into action after the break, with a purposeful run from Sturridge ending in a low effort, but Italy retook the lead as Balotelli rose at the back post to meet Candreva's in-swinging cross to beat former City team-mate Hart.
England looked dangerous though, with Rooney, Sterling and Sturridge all combining well, with the latter keen to test Sirigu at every opportunity. Rooney fired narrowly wide of the post after evading the offside trap, before substitute Ross Barkley tested the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper as Roy Hodgson's side searched for an equaliser.
While England pressed as players progressively tired in the Manaus heat, it was Italy who came closest to scoring again as a Pirlo free-kick smacked the bar in the final moments.