Late Jorginho penalty salvages Nations League draw for Italy against Poland

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho clipped home a late penalty to secure Italy a 1-1 draw against Poland in their Nations League opener in Bologna.

The Azzurri went into a first competitive game under new boss Roberto Mancini looking to rebuild following failure to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

However, for long spells it was a laboured performance at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, where Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski had volleyed Poland into a deserved first-half lead.

Italy eventually stepped things up during the closing stages, with Jorginho coolly converting from the spot in the 78th minute after substitute Federico Chiesa, son of former Italy striker Enrico, had been brought down.

Forward Mario Balotelli made his first competitive appearance for the Azzurri since the 2014 World Cup, having been drafted back into the international squad by his former club boss at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.

Poland, who finished bottom of their group at the World Cup, would have gone in front after just six minutes but for a fine reaction save by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The 19-year-old, tasked with taking over the gloves from Gianluigi Buffon, was alert to block Zielinski after he had been played in by veteran striker Robert Lewandowski, who was earning his 99th cap under new manager Jerzy Brzeczek.

Federico Bernardeschi curled a free-kick over, but Donnarumma needed to be alert again at the other end when he pushed a volley from Grzegorz Krychowiak around the post.

Italy looked laboured in their build-up, as Balotelli sent a 25-yard pot-shot high off target before Bernardeschi curled his effort wide.

Poland, though, produced a clinical finish to take the lead in the 41st minute after Jorginho was caught in possession by Mateusz Klich.

The ball was quickly fed up to Lewandowski on the left, and the captain floated a chip back across the penalty area towards the far post, where Zielinski arrived to dispatch a side-foot volley past Donnarumma.

Italy almost fell further behind soon after the restart.

Jakub Blaszczykowski weaved down the left flank and his cross was deflected through the Italy penalty area, where Lewandowski hooked the ball just over.

Juventus winger Bernardeschi drilled a 20-yard effort narrowly wide after cutting in from the left, before, on the hour, Nice striker Balotelli was replaced by Andrea Belotti.

Giacomo Bonaventura saw a close-range effort saved by Lukasz Fabianski, before the loose ball was hacked away, but the substitute had strayed just offside.

Italy were gifted a way back into the tie with 12 minutes left.

Poland veteran Blaszczykowski slid in from behind on Chiesa, the Fiorentina forward only having just come off the bench, to concede a needless penalty.

Jorginho clipped the resulting spot-kick into the left corner, sending the West Ham keeper the wrong way.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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