Amsterdam, Sep 7 (efe-epa).- Italy recorded their first win in the 2020-2021 UEFA Nations League, topping the Netherlands 1-0 Monday on the strength of a goal in first-half stoppage time.
Roberto Mancini’s men passed the ball crisply, put suffocating pressure on their rival and repeatedly created danger in the final third in that behind-closed-doors match at Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.
The Dutch were the first side to pose a threat on the opposing goal, particularly on a long-range shot by Memphis Depay. But that initial momentum proved to be a mirage.
In the 17th minute, an acrobatic shot by Nicolo Zaniolo traveled over the crossbar, and a series of attacking forays by the Italians forced Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong to showcase his defensive skills.
The Italians then finally got on the board on an unlikely goal by diminutive Nicolo Barella, who rose up over a defender and headed home a cross from Ciro Immobile.
Both sides had numerous chances at the start of the second half, with Depay once again threatening with a long-range blast.
The Lyon star also had one last opportunity with time winding down, but his mishit volley sailed far over the goal.
With their win, Italy now have four points and are first in League A Group 1, while the Netherlands and Poland both have three points and Bosnia have one.
In Monday’s other Group 1 contest at Bilino Polje Stadium in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the home side took an early lead when Haris Hajradinovic converted a penalty chance in the 24th minute.
That score, however, served as a wake-up call for the visitors.
The Poles nearly equalized on a pair of scoring attempts, one by Kamil Jozwiak that a defender miraculously cleared for a corner, and another by forward Arkadiusz Milik.
But just when Poland seemed most in need of superstar forward Robert Lewandowski, who was rested for the first two Nations League games after helping lead Bayern Munich to the Champions League title, Kamil Glik scored the tying goal on a header off of a corner kick in the 45th minute.
Poland then dominated at the start of the second half and once again scored in the air, with Kamil Grosicki heading a cross from Maciej Rybus into the back of the net in the 67th minute.
The visitors had that behind-closed-doors match well in hand, but head coach Jerzy Brzeczek’s questionable 68th-minute decision to remove Grzegorz Krychowiak, the man of the match at that juncture, handed the momentum back to Bosnia.
Elvir Koljic, Edin Dzeko and Edin Visca all had good chances to score over the next 13 minutes, but they ultimately came up empty and Poland escaped with a 2-1 victory. EFE-EPA