Italy draws 1-1 against England in international friendly
TURIN, Italy—Andros Townsend scored a late equalizer as England held Italy to a 1-1 draw in an international friendly at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday.
Substitute Townsend leveled 11 minutes from time to cancel out Graziano Pelle’s first-half opener after Italy had dominated the opening hour.
“The first half was nothing like the performances we’re looking for,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. “We fell way below the standards we’ve been setting.
“The first half seemed to drift and drift very badly as far as we were concerned. The second half was much closer to what we’re trying to do and there were moments we played quite well.”
Harry Kane was involved in one of England’s few chances in the first half, with a header that was cleared by Leonardo Bonucci but only as far as Wayne Rooney, whose deflected effort crashed off the crossbar.
Kane had scored less than two minutes into his debut against Lithuania on Friday after coming on as a substitute but was kept quiet by Italy on his first start.
“He did very well,” Hodgson said. “It wasn’t an easy game, he was playing against three very experienced, tough defenders. I’m more than satisfied with his performance.”
England had won all seven of its matches following a disappointing World Cup but faced its toughest test yet against an Italy team which had made wholesale changes following its own dismal campaign in Brazil.
“We have a lot of young guys who are just beginning their international journey and these players need to progress and they will grow,” Italy coach Antonio Conte said. “I have confidence in the spirit of these lads, the Italy shirt means a lot to them, they have a lot of pride in playing for their country.
“We have to progress in every area. We have to work, we have to continue to improve. We have to show we’re a team and not a group of players who have been selected.”
The match marked the return of Conte to the stadium where he had lifted three successive Serie A titles before sensationally quitting in the summer and the former Juventus manager was given a rousing reception.
“It was a lovely trip down memory lane, it was a very emotional night,” Conte said.
England was looking to avenge a 2-1 defeat to Italy in the opening match of the World Cup but both sides started sluggishly.
Italy slowly gained the upper hand and Phil Jagielka cleared Matteo Darmian’s cross out from inside the six-yard box with Eder waiting. Giorgio Chiellini headed the resulting corner inches wide.
Pelle was on a poor run of form and hadn’t scored in the Premier League since Dec. 20, but it was the Southampton striker who broke the deadlock in the 29th minute. Chiellini easily brushed past Phil Jones on the left and crossed for Pelle’s glancing header into the far bottom corner.
Eder was causing the England defenders no end of trouble and almost helped Italy double its lead with a great run before picking out Alessandro Florenzi out wide — but Pelle just failed to connect with the cross.
England was forced into a substitution at the end of the first half, with Michael Carrick coming on for his injured Manchester United teammate Chris Smalling and that changed the match, with Jones dropping back into defense after what Hodgson later admitted was a failed experiment in midfield.
Hodgson also credited second-half substitutes Ross Barkley and Townsend for England’s improved performance after the break. The visitors had several chances and Rooney had a good effort saved by Gianluigi Buffon before just failing to meet Kane’s low ball across the face of goal.
England leveled in the 79th minute with a fine 25-yard (meter) strike from Townsend into the left side of goal. The Tottenham winger had come off the bench nine minutes earlier.
Rooney could have won it for England while Luca Antonelli also went close late on as he burst into the box before seeing his effort whistle past the right post.