Italy produced a passionate and tactically brilliant display to end Spain’s quest for a third consecutive European Championship title and secure a mouth-watering quarter-final tie against world champions Germany.
Using wing-backs Mattia de Sciglio and Alessandro Florenzi to brilliant effect, they were the more potent attacking team until they withdrew in defence of their lead in the final stages.
Giorgio Chiellini scored the game’s opening goal, bundling home from close range after David de Gea had parried an Eder free-kick in greasy conditions in the first half.
And Southampton striker Graziano Pelle sealed victory in injury time, volleying home from eight yards after an attempted clearance from substitute Matteo Darmian’s cross had looped up invitingly as Italy hit a tiring team on the break.
The scoreline could have been a lot worse for Spain were in not for a series of outstanding saves by Manchester United keeper De Gea. He made three in the first 45 minutes before smothering an effort from Eder in the second half after he had been put clean through by a sublime flick from Pelle.
Italy played with an intensity and fierce determination that hinted at their ambition to avenge their 4-0 defeat in the 2012 final.
It was only in the latter stages that they were subjected to any threatening, sustained pressure – but Sergio Ramos headed wide and Gianluigi Buffon saved long-range efforts from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.
And with full-time looming, Buffon made a brilliant dive to his right to save a close-range effort from Pique before Italy broke clear to score their decisive second.
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