Football Features

“A legend was born tonight” – Player ratings as Spain snap Italy’s unbeaten run and knock them out of the Nations League

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:32, 6 October 2021

In a great night of football, Spain got revenge for Euro 2020 by beating Italy 2-1 in the UEFA Nations League semi-final.

Luis Enrique’s men inflicted Italy’s first defeat for 37 games as well as their first loss ever in the San Siro in a dominant win that saw them reach Sunday’s showpiece final.

Here’s how the players rated at San Siro:


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Italy

Gianluigi Donnarumma – 5 – Helpless on the goals but nearly fumbled a shot into his net later. Not his best display as the boos from his former hometown fans clearly got to him.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo – 5 – Offered nothing in attack and unusually weak defensively in the first-half. Spain pulled him apart for both their goals. Looked much more comfortable in the back five after the break, and actually acted as a useful bulwark, but that first half? Yikes.

Leonardo Bonucci – 3 – Massive clearance after Donnarumma fumbled a shot and was leading from the back but ruined all his hard-work by elbowing Busquets and thus getting sent off, essentially damning Italy and ruining any chances they had of getting back into the game.

Alessandro Bastoni – 6 – Struggled with Spain’s movement next to Bonucci, but picked up once Chiellini came on and the team switched to a back five.

Emerson – 4 – Completely lost Ferran Torres for the second goal and got tortured by Yeremi second-half.

Jorginho – 5 – The European player of the year was overwhelmed and overshadowed by Busquets and Koke for the second time this year after the Euro 2020 semi-final, and Gavi for the first time. Not the best performance from Jorginho.

Nico Barella – 6 – Worked hard to try and influence the game but to no avail.

Marco Verratti – 4 – Got punked out by yet another Spanish teenager (after Pedri at Euro 2020) and spent most of the first-half in a strop as a result. Had no influence on the game as Gavi rang rings around him.

Federico Chiesa – 7 – Italy’s Shot God was denied service tonight, limiting the impact he could have on the game. Still had the drive to break forward from his own box, hunt down a loose header and exposed some soft defending, run the entire length of the pitch and then set-up Italy’s goal with selfless clarity.

Lorenzo Insigne – 4 – Missed an inexplicable chance with Italy 1-0 down, blazing wide. Offered nothing else in attack.

Federico Bernadeschi – 6 – Looked bright and although he wasn’t what Italy needed in attack, he nevertheless played well and stung Unai Simon’s palms with a nice near-post shot. Had to be subbed off at half-time as Italy adjusted.

Substitutes:

Giorgio Chiellini (for Bernadeschi 46′) – 8 – Came on and showed Bonucci and everyone what a true defensive leader is. Stabilised his country with a rock solid performance. A man mountain who must have Italian fans wishing they could take 10 years off him.

Moise Kean (for Insigne 58′) – 6 – Injected massive amounts of energy and gave Spain lots of problems.

Manuel Locatelli (for Verratti 58′) – 7 – Added some much-needed bite to midfield. Got stuck into tackles, argued with Spanish players, showed no fear of the teenaged Gavi and gave Italy some pride,

Lorenzo Pellegrini (for Jorginho 64′) – 7 – Provided thrust and scored Italy’s goal.

Davide Calabria (for Barella 72′) – 6 – Helped out.


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Spain

Unai Simon – 7 – Some tasty saves when Italy broke through Spanish lines, notably from Bernadeschi.

Cesar Azpilicueta – 8 – A solid presence who mostly hung back and helped defend against transitions. Really stepped up late in the game as Spain played around the Italy press to try and see out the match. Such a vital presence.

Aymeric Laporte – 8 – Italy never got through Laporta, having to move around him to get the few chances they did. So assured in the passing game as Spain were shifting the ball around Italy’s press.

Pau Torres – 4 – Was playing very well but a shockingly soft bit of defending allowed Italy to score.

Marcos Alonso – 8 – A massive force in attack, owning the left-flank especially in the first-half. Played key passes in the build-up to both goals and used his physicality to help out at the back.

Sergio Busquets – 8 – Enjoyed the slower pace of international football as he dominated Italy once again. Got caught a couple of times in possession, but stayed cool as a cucumber no matter the situation.

Gavi – 9 – Showed absolutely no fear or hesitation despite being the youngest player to ever represent Spain. Played the game with effortless confidence and dogged tenacity, working back defensively when others in his team had fallen asleep and then also having the composure to carry the ball forward and play sensible, effective passes.

Gavi never indulged, never overplayed, always made the right decision and dominated three of the most impressive midfielders in the game. Gavi is 17 but plays like he’s 27. A legend was born tonight, and this won’t be the last we hear of Barcelona’s brilliant young midfielder.

Koke – 7 – A tenacious and hard-working shift to shut Italy down.

Pablo Sarabia – 7 – Not the most dominant display, but still played his part pressing and moving and driving. His deft touch pass for the second strike was wonderful.

Mikel Oyarzabal – 8 – A gorgeous cross to create the opening goal. And he did it again with an even more beatiful cross for the second goal. Luis Enrique must have wished he could have been so decisive in the Euro 2020 semi-final, but will settle for this brilliant scenario.

Ferran Torres – 9 – Back on his striker groove with two absolutely magnificent goals, sheer striker finishes. Ferran is often thought of as a makeshift forward but it’s clear that under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique’s guiding hands he has a real shot of becoming a genuine goalscoring striker.

Ferran’s finishes here, especially the header for the second goal, were the kind of goals any no. 9 would be proud of. It’s a shame he had to come off injured as he would have been after his hat-trick. He will have to make do with scoring 12 goals for Spain faster than Fernando Torres (no relation). Spain will be hoping he is fit to start the final because they need his goalscoring touch to give their game a sense of bite.

Substitutes:

Yeremi Pino (for Ferran 49′) – 7 – Absolutely ripped poor Emerson to pieces every time he touched the ball. Played with so much assurance and maturity you would never believe that he’s just 18.

Mikel Merino (for Koke 75′) – 6 – Filled in nicely.

Bryan Gil (for Sarabia 75′) – 6 – Had a couple of half-chances after some great runs.

Sergi Roberto (for Gavi 83′) – X – Showed incredible maturity and poise, coming on as he did just after Italy pulled a goal back. Helped Luis Enrique’s side shut the game down and see out the win with lots of carefully considered possession play.