Italy missed the opportunity to take a commanding lead at the top of Nations League Group A1 as an inability to finish off chances saw them held to a 0-0 draw by Poland in Gdansk on Sunday.
Roberto Mancini’s men extended their unbeaten run to 18 matches across all competitions, though they will be frustrated that they were unable to go four points clear of the Netherlands given the quality of their openings.
Italy posed the greater threat throughout but were particularly wasteful in the first half, with Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini spurning two glorious opportunities in an entertaining opening 45 minutes.
Poland managed to tighten up a little in the second period, though they again had a let-off when Emerson Palmieri headed agonisingly wide and that proved to be Italy’s last clear-cut chance.
Italy enjoyed a positive start and should have consolidated their position in the ascendancy by taking an 11th-minute lead, but Chiesa inexplicably shot over from close range after meeting Andrea Belotti’s inch-perfect cross.
Poland sprang to life at the other end shortly after. Robert Lewandowski’s left-wing delivery looked sure to be turned in by Kamil Jozwiak, only for Emerson to clear the danger in the nick of time.
The hosts had another fortunate escape 10 minutes before the interval as a low cross from the right found its way through to Pellegrini in the centre of the box, but he could not get enough on the ball and Lukasz Fabianski gathered gratefully.
Poland began the second period brightly and went close through Jakub Moder – his fierce effort from a tricky angle just outside the area forcing Gianluigi Donnarumma into a necessary save.
Italy remained the dominant force, though Poland became even tougher to break down.
Nevertheless, the visitors did work another glorious opening just past the hour, as Emerson met Chiesa’s cross and failed to hit the target with his header.
Poland almost nicked the three points right at the end, but Karol Linetty slammed into the side-netting after being teed up by Grzegorz Krychowiak.
What does it mean? Azzurri their own worst enemies
On the whole, there was much to like about Italy’s performance. Their shot count of 17 was far superior to the hosts’ four, while they had 61 per cent of the ball.
The issue was their finishing – just two shots hit the target, while they passed up three wonderful opportunities to open the scoring.
Victory would have given them an extremely healthy four-point lead over the Dutch, whom they face next.
Verratti in control
Marco Verratti’s commanding midfield performances are no new phenomenon, but they are always a joy to behold. Once again he was a cut above for Italy here, on and off the ball.
In possession he attempted (96) and completed (84) more passes than anyone else on the pitch, with 60 played in the attacking half, while he made a team-high four tackles and 12 recoveries.
A rare quiet day for Lewandowski
It would be harsh to be too critical of Lewandowski’s display given the service to him was not great, but Poland were by no means playing with 11 men behind the ball. The Bayern Munich striker was unable to inspire here, failing to register a single shot while only Sebastian Szymanski (22) had fewer touches than Lewandowski (32) of the hosts’ starting line-up.
Both teams are in Nations League action again on Wednesday, with Italy hosting the Netherlands and Poland welcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina in Wroclaw.
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