England – Italy: Goals ruled out for both teams, but England fail to make their dominance count in committed display
England vs Italy at Wembley, two of world football’s most iconic nations clashing at one of the game’s most historic venues. Could it get much better as far as friendlies went? This was England’s first match since securing their passage through to next year’s World Cup, and so the game represented the maiden match in their run-up to the great event. England had made sure of participation through their 0-0 in Poland five weeks earlier.
On a night where plenty of World Cup qualifiers would take place still, Italy would travel beyond the country’s borders to play an international for the first time since losing 1-0 to Romania in Bucharest late in March. Since then they had completed five home friendlies, and only four days earlier they had beaten Algeria 1-0 in Vicenza thanks to a second half header by Serena.
England team news
Having rounded off the qualification with two scoreless draws from journeys to Sweden and Poland, England would’ve relished the opportunity to have a go at next year’s World Cup hosts on home soil. This was the first time Italy had come to England since the horrible Heysel tragedy four and a half years earlier, and manager Bobby Robson was adament to pick his strongest possible team. This left little in terms of innovation, at least from kick-off, and so the English took to the field with much the same eleven which the manager had been using for the bulk of the qualification, with the obvious exception of fine midfielder Webb, who had badly ruptured his achilles tendon during the tie in Stockholm. Rather than allowing exciting Tottenham midfielder Gascoigne a starting opportunity, Robson instead again looked to Liverpool’s McMahon to deputise for the stricken Manchester United player. On the bench, however, sat a number of players who had yet to win their first cap. No doubt would there be English debutants this late autumn evening in London.
One possible debutant was Chelsea ‘keeper Dave Beasant, who had been picked ahead of Rangers’ Chris Woods as the second choice goalie, with QPR’s David Seaman probably out injured. At least the latter did not feature in four straight league matches around the date of this fixture. Exciting Aston Villa forward David Platt was another one in line for his international debut, whereas there was a recall for big Derby defender Mark Wright, who had not featured since England’s last match in the 1988 European Championships, as he took his place among the English substitutes.
Italy team news
Azeglio Vicini had experimented with a three man backline during their prestigeous 1-0 home defeat against Brazil the previous month, but he had reverted back to a familiar four man defence for the clash with the North Africans the previous weekend. What did he have in mind for this fixture?
It was clear that Vicini had already from the outset had in mind which players to use for most positions, and so throughout their build-up Italy would rarely change much around personnel wise. This was their 12th friendly since the 1988 European Championships, and with one exception only, their starting line-up was identical to the one which had taken to the pitch in the first of the twelve, against Norway, the previous October. Up front, Napoli’s wily frontrunner Carnevale had come into the reckoning, and here in London he would make his fifth successive start. Three players had been ousted from the eleven which had kicked off against Algeria: Left-back De Agostini and midfielders Marocchi and Baggio. Reinstalled was young left-back Maldini as well as midfielders Berti and Donadoni. There were also no surprises among their pool of substitutes.
Ever-presents during their World Cup preparations were centre-backs Baresi and Ferri, as well as midfield general Giannini and forward Vialli.
A 43 year old Austrian by the name of Hubert Forstinger would be in charge of the fixture. Coincidentally, he had also refereed England’s recent qualifier in Sweden, so he would have known the English players already. He was a relatively authoritative official who perhaps was not someone prone to joking and laughing with players, but he certainly knew how to get the job done. In addition to the goalless clash in Stockholm, he had also been the man in the middle for Romania v Greece during this World Cup qualification. This was his fifth international fixture.
This was Italy’s first international visit in England since the two countries had met in the qualification for the 1978 World Cup. The hosts had triumphed 2-0 on that occasion. Since then, they had clashed only twice: Once during the 1980 European Championships on Italian soil, with the hosts winning 1-0, and once during a little remembered three team tournament in Mexico in the summer of 1985, taking place only a week after the ill-fated European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, where Italy had run out 2-1 winners thanks to a late Altobelli penalty. England had five remaining starters from that occasion, whereas the Italians had only Bergomi, tonight’s captain. The stalwart defender was well remembered for his participation in the 1982 World Cup triumph as an 18 year old. The total record of past meetings read six wins for England, five for Italy, and four draws. Italy’s sole win in England had come in this stadium in 1973, in a game where a certain Fabio Capello had got the only goal, and where England stopper Shilton had won his 16th (!) cap.
|1 Peter Shilton||sub h-t||40||Derby|
|2 Gary Stevens||26||Rangers|
|3 Stuart Pearce||sub 68′||27||Nottingham|
|4 Steve McMahon||sub 68′||28||Liverpool|
|5 Des Walker||23||Nottingham|
|6 Terry Butcher||30||Rangers|
|7 Bryan Robson (c)||sub h-t||32||Manchester United|
|8 Chris Waddle||28||Marseille|
|9 Peter Beardsley||sub 79′||28||Liverpool|
|10 Gary Lineker||28||Tottenham|
|11 John Barnes||26||Liverpool|
|12 Mike Phelan||on h-t||27||Manchester United|
|13 Dave Beasant||on h-t||30||Chelsea|
|14 Steve Hodge||on 68′||27||Nottingham|
|15 David Platt||on 79′||23||Aston Villa|
|16 Nigel Winterburn||on 68′||25||Arsenal|
|17 David Rocastle||22||Arsenal|
|18 Mark Wright||26||Derby|
|1 Walter Zenga||29||Internazionale|
|2 Giuseppe Bergomi (c)||25||Internationale|
|3 Paolo Maldini||21||AC Milan|
|4 Franco Baresi||29||AC Milan|
|5 Riccardo Ferri||26||Internazionale|
|6 Nicola Berti||22||Internazionale|
|7 Roberto Donadoni||26||AC Milan|
|8 Fernando De Napoli||25||Napoli|
|9 Gianluca Vialli||sub 83′||25||Sampdoria|
|10 Giuseppe Giannini||25||Roma|
|11 Andrea Carnevale||sub 71′||28||Napoli|
|12 Stefano Tacconi||32||Juventus|
|13 Ciro Ferrara||22||Napoli|
|14 Luigi De Agostini||28||Juventus|
|15 Luca Fusi||26||Napoli|
|16 Massimo Crippa||24||Napoli|
|17 Giancarlo Marocchi||24||Juventus|
|18 Roberto Baggio||on 83′||22||Fiorentina|
|19 Aldo Serena||on 71′||29||Internazionale|
|20 Roberto Mancini||24||Sampdoria|
Some players, like Lineker and Carnevale, shake hands prior to kick-off. The referee makes sure that both sets of players are ready, and so he signals his whistle for Vialli and Donadoni to proceed with the inaugural kick. The game had been dubbed as something of a celebratory match for the hosts in their reaching the World Cup, and with Italy, the great event’s host nation as the opposing team, Wembley has been in festive mode for hours already.
The match starts with the visitors clearly wishing to demonstrate their ability to keep possession. By the five minute mark, England have almost not been allowed a taste of the ball, though the home side have already committed a couple of fouls when clattering into opponents: Pearce has twice been given free-kicks against for being too aggressive against the playful Donadoni, whereas Butcher’s already had one really tough aerial challenge against striker Carnevale, who was also subjected to a tackle from behind, on the ball though, from the same defender. With the visitors so much in the ascendancy right from the word ‘go’, England certainly feel they must show some commitment in order to shake their opponents out of their early rhythm.
There had never been much doubt about the English formation. They continued in the tried and tested 4-4-2 that Robson had been favouring right through their qualification campaign. There had been little room for experiment, especially as Italy was regarded as an opponent right out of the top drawer, and so even Rocastle, who had featured in their last qualifier in Poland, had been placed on the bench with Barnes available again. This had switched the virtousful Waddle back across to the right, where he would often come in contact with Maldini. Along the opposite side, Barnes would typically be up against De Napoli. In the centre, it was again Lineker and Beardsley, where the latter had possibly had a somewhat disappointing qualification, though he would still be operating as a second striker behind the Tottenham ace. Lineker would be marshalled by Ferri, the Italian defender considered to be one of the best in the man-marking business at the time. Beardsley, playing slightly deeper, avoided such intent from the Italians.
The central midfield two were both known for a fairly physical approach: Both Robson, again captaining the side, as he had been in the five qualifiers that he had played in, and McMahon next to him were fully committed players. With the former better known for his ability to break into the box, it did appear to be McMahon in a more restricted role, predominantly to the right of his skipper. Behind them were central defensive duo Walker and Butcher. Nottingham Forest defender Walker had excelled throughout the qualification with some impressive displays, first and foremost acknowledged for his excessive pace, and he was the perfect central defensive partner for the tall, robust and very physical Butcher, who almost never lost a header. With the latter left-footed, it was clear he would appear as the left-sided of the two. Outside him again was another tough performer in Pearce, who was also of an attacking nature, whilst the usually slightly more cautious Stevens was patrolling the right hand side. With the ageing Shilton between the sticks, it was a very, very solid collective that Bobby Robson held his rule over. Despite this, they would hardly get near the ball in the opening five minutes.
It was not as if Italy were threatening, but they were certainly looking to build confidence through their extreme possession. Whereas Donadoni had attempted early to search out Carnevale through the centre, though failing as the ball reached Shilton with the striker ultimately running in the other direction, there had been a shooting opportunity for Giannini from just shy of 25 yards to the right of the penalty area. His left foot effort had been sliced, and eventually reached high and wide of its intended target. Yet, it was almost an overwhelming start by Italy in their display of keeping possession on what was definitely a difficult venue. Could these physical challenges by the English bring the visitors out of their slick rhythm, though?
Italy manager Azeglio Vicini had decided to go with a 3-5-2 formation, as the defensive trio of captain Bergomi, libero Baresi and hard man Ferri took to the centre. There was a definitive pattern to each defender’s position, with Bergomi, usually operating as a right-back though equally comfortable in a central defensive capacity, seeing to the right. Baresi, as you would have expected, slotted into a somewhat deeper position, and Ferri had identified the hosts’ primary striker, Lineker, as the man to shadow. This would at times see him and Baresi swap positions, with the elegant libero from time to time appearing to the left of the Internazionale man.
In midfield, there was little doubt as to who was the most central player: Roma’s Giannini was the untouchable for that position. He would have immediately to his right the purposeful Donadoni, who had perhaps not always shone so far in his performances for the national team during 1989, and who would here at times interchange positions with De Napoli, Italy’s designated wide right player. Donadoni operated quite far towards the right hand side in his inside right role, and it contributed to giving the visitors a slight right hand bias. Berti was the player on the opposite side of Giannini, whereas there was again Maldini outside of him. Up top, both Vialli and Carnevale would, as always, head towards wide positions. In particular the former was in preferance of this: Vialli sought an awful lot towards the right hand side, and in doing so he became part of a relatively fine quartet of players often engaged along the flank and in the right handed channels: Bergomi, De Napoli and Donadoni were the others. This left them a tad thin through the centre, where perhaps the idea was for Berti, first and foremost, to make runs through the centre.
England coming into the game
On eight minutes, the referee has his first talking to as McMahon’s mowed down Carnevale just inside the Italian half of the pitch. The forward had controlled a pass and just turned to move across the halfway line as the England hard man scythed him down with a late challenge. The Austrian referee is quick in approaching McMahon and telling the midfielder in no uncertain terms that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. Carnevale needs some attention on his left ankle before he can resume play. By this point, though, the home side are gradually finding their way into the match, as the earlier Italian possession play has been replaced by some more direct approach from the home side. England had been given a shooting opportunity to the left of the penalty area after Bergomi had brought down Lineker, but Pearce’ effort from 22 yards had been wayward.
Beardsley, of all people, is the next to plough one of the visitors to the ground as he tackles Baresi irregularly out by the touchline. However, the referee does not deem it a foul, and so England will continue through the means of a throw-in. There appears to be little doubt about the fact that the hosts are succeeding in unsettling the visiting players through their physical approach, as by now it is the home side which is in the ascendancy. Italy are rarely allowed outside their own half, and the early confidence and promise which the away side had displayed was by now nowhere to be seen.
Waddle, something of an English playmaker despite his original role wide right in midfield, teases Maldini before whipping a cross over to the far side where Barnes has got up above De Napoli to direct a header towards goal via the ground. Zenga is equal to his effort as he palms it around the post. The Wembley crowd roar England on; they finally like what they see.
The game might be short in goal chances created by the halfway stage in the first half, but it is certainly not lacking in action. Neither England nor Italy score an abundance of goals in their matches, but neither also rarely concedes. Both defences leave solid impressions so far, and by now it is the visitors’ rear lines which are being put to the test. The match almost mirrors the motions of a boomerang so far, with Italy certainly experiencing a heavy recoil of what they tried to dish out in the opening few minutes. England are piling on the pressure, and they are inspired by the thrifty Waddle, who seems to be in a splendid mood. He gives Maldini a lot of trouble along his right hand side, and Waddle also comes deep to pick the ball off his defenders in order to instigate further attacks. He had been one of England’s top players throughout the qualification, and his form appeared not to have deteriorated. The Marseille wide man was also England’s corner taker from the right, where his left foot often tried to point out Butcher on the near post. A similar routine was evident from the opposite corner flag, where Beardsley tried to do likewise.
A whole lot of Waddle
Waddle is again at the centre as England almost carve out an opening just shy of the halfway point in the first period. He strikes a long, raking ball forward for full-back Stevens to run onto, and the Scotland based defender manages to carry the ball in the forward direction with the aid of his chest despite an attempted challenge from Maldini. With Lineker to aim for at the far post, Stevens continues into the area before trying to reach the striker, but Ferri gets inbetween and wildly clears the ball away for another English corner kick from the right, landing awkwardly on his shoulder in the process. Had Ferri not perhaps also shown some signs of not always being able to tolerate certain levels of pain when up against Romanian striker Cămătaru in March? He would continue after some quick treatment, though.
Maldini suited to 3-5-2?
The youthful Maldini was looking like manager Vicini’s prefered option in the left-back/left sided role, although he did face some competition from the more experienced De Agostini. The latter was sat among the substitutes at Wembley, and he will have seen how the 20 year old was struggling to contain an exuberant Waddle. Perhaps was Italy’s formation at blame for Maldini’s defensive concerns? After all, he would have been more used to appearing in a back four rather than the wide player in a midfield five.
The match was of fine intensity and good tempo, certainly not resembling a practice game. Especially the home side seemed to be bent on giving their all in their attempt to break the visitors down; it would not be for the lack of trying should they fail to succeed. There’s some fine combination play by Liverpool duo Beardsley and Barnes along the left, with the latter flicking the ball on with his heel for Beardsley to run on to. However, the linesman had seen an unlikely offside, and England were called off. Approaching 25 minutes, the match continued to deliever promise. Would the promise turn into something more solid?
Italy goalkeeper Zenga’s an experienced customer, but he did perhaps have a weakness in coming out to claim balls into the penalty area. An evidence of this was given when Waddle delievered an outswung ball from the left, as the ‘keeper initially had wanted to come to try and claim it. In hesitating and then changing his mind, he had exposed himself dreadfully, and had Butcher connected better in his aerial challenge with Carnevale, Zenga would’ve stood absolutely no chance of saving. As it were, the big England defender’s header went to the right of the post. This was on 26 minutes, and England continued to be in control of proceedings.
The hosts were more direct than the visitors; they involved fewer players in their build-ups. The ball travelled quicker in the direction of the Italian penalty area than when the visitors attempted to make inroads into English territory. The Italians a couple of times saw some wonderful touches from Giannini in the middle of the park, where he nutmegged opponents, but there was not a whole lot of ground gained. When they did break with a bit of pace, Vialli could not reach neither Carnevale nor Berti with his pass through the centre. Berti tries to return the favour for Vialli on the half hour mark, but Stevens is well positioned to cut the pass out. The score remains locked at nil apiece.
Italy have goal disallowed
With 31,28 on the clock, Italy have what appeared to be a legitimate goal ruled out for offside against Carnevale. It had been Donadoni making a run on the ball towards central areas, and having spotted the Napoli forward between Walker and Stevens, the curly-haired midfielder slipped what seemed a perfectly timed ball through. Carnevale appeared to relish this piece of directness, and his only touch saw the ball travel past the leg of the on-coming Shilton and end up in the back of the net. However, the linesman on the far side decided to raise his flag. Replays would show that he had erred. Italy had been robbed of a first half lead. Stevens had played Carnevale onside.
Italy are definitely more in the game again by now, and they manage to keep possession inside the English half for further spells. Manager Robson shouts directions from the sidelines, and his namesake, the England captain, seems to think that Donadoni goes to the ground too lightly. On 35 minutes, there’s a free-kick for the visitors in a decent position to the right of the English penalty area, some 25 yards out. With no De Agostini in the side, though, don’t Italy lack a left-footed shooter? Also, Baggio’s on the bench, though one does suspect that this is not Baggio range anyway. Italy decide to lob the ball into the area, and their opportunity’s wasted. Soon, Vialli’s fortunate to escape a booking as he raises his hand in the centre circle to prevent Pearce’ pass from reaching Walker. Poor refereeing.
Visitors more direct at times
Towards the end of the first half, the pace has died down somewhat. Italy are actually playing some more direct balls of their own, as Baresi on three different occasions tries to find his forwards from inside his own half. The English central defenders continue to have their opponents well marshalled, and both Walker and Butcher had given solid accounts of themselves during the opening half. The last indication of this is when Walker rushes from inside his own half to get to the ball just before Vialli by the edge of the centre circle inside the visitors’ half. The referee awards the away forward a free-kick, as Walker’s probably showed too much aggression for the man in black’s liking, but his manager would’ve been pleased with such a contribution, no doubt.
Ten seconds past the original 45 minutes, the Austrian ref calls an end to the half. The home side had been on top for long periods, but they had been unable to create the openings necessary to find a goal. In fact, half time replays show how the English have been lucky to not enter the dressing room a goal down, as Carnevale had clearly been half a yard onside when he ran on to Donadoni’s through pass and prodded home beyond Shilton. As it is, it is goalless at half time.
After an eventful yet scoreless first half, the spectators were probably expecting some half time changes, given the fact that this was a friendly. The away team, though, reappeared with the same eleven players who had played out the first half, whereas the English had made two substitutions: Between the sticks there was a debutant in the shape of Beasant, who was back in the capital again having played the 1988/89 season for Newcastle in the north east of the country. The ‘keeper famous for being the first stopper to prevent a penalty from finding the back of the net in an FA Cup final (1988), then at Wimbledon, was now the property of Chelsea. He had replaced Shilton, whilst skipper Robson had gone off and seen his place taken by Manchester United team mate Phelan. This meant that the second half captaincy would go to Butcher.
Another disallowed goal
The England strikers duo of Lineker and Beardsley saw to kick-off, and almost immediately there was controversy, as the referee called off another goal, this time for the home side. Bergomi had given away a free-kick out on the England right hand side having been too aggressive in his checking on Lineker, and as Waddle swung another set piece into the box with his fine left foot, the Austrian referee decided that Butcher had committed a foul against Zenga as they both jumped for the ball on the edge of the six yard area. There appeared not to be a whole lot of wrong in the big defender’s challenge, but the ‘keeper, who had not always looked convincing during the first half, could breathe a sigh of relief as Forstinger awarded him a free-kick, as Lineker had pounced on Butcher’s knock-down and side-footed the ball into the back of the goal. If Italy had been unfortunate to see Carnevale’s first half ‘goal’ ruled out for offside, England could feel aggrieved that they had been denied on this occasion. On balance of this, a still even scoreline seemed just.
England laying siege once again
The hosts seemed determined to take the game to the Italians early in the second half, and only moments after having that Lineker ‘goal’ ruled out, they would have another go. They had been given the opportunity to approach the visitors’ goal through the centre when Butcher had absolutely crushed Carnevale in the air following a goal kick from Zenga. The new England captain’s header forward reached Beardsley, who in turn flicked the ball on with his head for Lineker, who was a few yards outside of the penalty area. The Italians claimed the striker had used his hand in trying to get the ball under control, but the referee was having none of it, and Lineker would lay the ball back for Waddle to have a shot from 25 yards. His left foot effort eventually went high and wide, but it had been another moment of promise from the hosts, who by far seemed the more likely side to break the deadlock by now. Italy would need to raise their game, and certainly also their aggression levels in midfield in order to live with the hosts. So far, it had been a disappointing showing from them, barring the opening sequence of the first half.
Italy can barely get out from their own half in the opening ten minutes of the second half. England are playing with plenty of determination, and they do not allow the visitors any time or space, something which clearly unsettles the boys in blue shirts. Bobby Robson seems to have got his tactics spot on, and each and every home player is taking their turn in this high pressure, high octane game. Waddle continues to worry Maldini along the English right, and the hosts will win a number of corner kicks, something which enables them to lay further siege on Zenga’s goal. The English’ routine is to try and find Butcher on the near post for the big defender to flick the ball on, and on one occasion substitute Phelan is close to getting on the end of it, with Bergomi to the rescue as he heads the ball out for another English corner. Then, with just over nine minutes of the half gone, another delievery into the penalty area causes Zenga concern, as he comes and fails to give the ball a convincing punch when challenging Butcher (again). The ball drops kindly for Phelan to have a lobbed effort towards the gaping net, but from 27-28 yards out the debutant can only guide his attempt a yard to the right of the post. Italy, and Zenga, draw another sigh of relief. The Internazionale stopper would’ve been to blame had Phelan hit the back of the net.
Italy growing back into it?
Up until the hour mark, Italy are unable to get into the English penalty area, but at least they are beginning to regain something of a foothold in the game, being able to string sequences of passes together. The home side appear to have receded in their heavy early second half pressure, well aware of the fact that they are unable to maintain such pressing levels through to the full time whistle. The home players are still the ones looking the more determined as they deliever some juicy tackles all around the park, and with just over an hour played, it is again Carnevale who will feel the impact of yet another English challenge: Halfway inside the hosts’ half, he manages to escape with the ball after a battle with McMahon, but having seen the ball run away from him a little, he is subjected to a big lunge from McMahon’s central midfield colleague Phelan, who came in studs first and could’ve been booked for intent alone. As it is, the referee awards nothing but an Italian free-kick, with some of the home players claiming that Phelan had won the ball. He had, but Forstinger accused him of dangerous play. Carnevale needed a bit of the magic sponge before he could resume play.
Outside of the post
The second half is close to reaching its halfway stage when England hit the outside of post directly from Beardsley’s left wing corner. Again, they had been looking for Butcher on the near post, but the defender had been guarded by several players, and as neither had been able to get a touch or make a clearance on the near post, the ball travelled all the way until it hit the woodwork. However, there was not much chance of a goal, as the Italians greatly outnumbered their opponents, and as Pearce desperately tried to take a swing at the ball, he only proceeded to give Berti a kick in the kidney region. This meant another visiting player needed treatment, although it seemed well warranted on this occasion. It had perhaps not always been so during the course of the game.
Twin substitution by hosts
England make another double substitution on 68 minutes, with left-back Winterburn, a third debutant of the evening, and midfielder Hodge coming into the action for Pearce and McMahon respectively. The Arsenal defender would be a like for like replacement for Pearce, whereas Hodge would slot more naturally into a central left position after taking over for McMahon, who probably had been more central right. Hodge was a different kind of player to the one he had replaced, less aggressive but more skillful. Would this see the Italian midfield get more time on the ball?
Just after the 70 minute mark, it is the visitors who make their first substitution when taking off the hapless Carnevale, who had given his all, but he had been victim to a good few tough challenges from the committed English defenders. Having also seen a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside during the first half, he was probably glad to see the back of the fine Wembley turf. His replacement was big striker Serena, who had scored their winner against Algeria only four days earlier. Carnevale had predominantly been operating through the centre, with his partner Vialli coming more into a wide left position since half time, and Serena was expected to be a straight swap. The big Internazionale striker could also be useful at defensive set-pieces.
Serena’s first call of duty is indeed defending another English set-piece, with the ball being expected to be delievered into the area by Waddle yet again. However, Beardsley had seen Stevens make a fine run along the right, and having escaped the Italian radar, the full-back decided to have a go from an improbable angle, almost striking lucky with his right-footed effort. The ball sails just past the far angle of the post and the crossbar, with the Rangers defender coming close to snatching his first goal at international level. Remarkably, Stevens would get another opportunity to aim at goal less than two minutes later, as the hosts again come close to opening the scoring. A Waddle cross from the right eventually found its way to Beardsley, whose prod at goal from around the penalty spot was saved practically on the goalline by De Napoli, and as the ball was cleared to the edge of the box, it was once again the right-sided full-back who could take aim. His effort went into the side netting.
It is a remarkably tame second half performance by the visitors, who have never been able to test the England debutant goalkeeper. They seem unconvincing when in possession, like they are void of ideas when entering the English half of the pitch. With players such as Giannini and Donadoni in midfield, one would’ve thought otherwise, but they appear to have been intimidated by the committed English performance. Berti, the more youthful member in the Italian midfield, had also not been able to put his marker on the game, with the visitors not playing to one of his greater assets: runs through the centre. Along the flanks, both De Napoli and Maldini had been spending more, much more, time in the defensive half than inside opposition territory, and so the visitors were unable to make their presence felt particularly strongly as an attacking force. The only credit they could take from their performance since the break was that they were still holding on to a draw.
Lineker goes close
Despite the home side’s dominance, they had been unable to get that elusive goal, or at least one which counted. Their stronghold on the game would continue through to the end, and six minutes before time there was yet another fine opportunity, and again it came following a set-piece: A long Stevens throw from the right, just over halfway inside the Italian half, was headed on by Butcher, who even after Serena’s introduction yet was winning everything in the air, in both halves of the pitch, and the captain’s flick-on fell invitingly for Lineker, who eight yards out tried to guide the ball past Zenga with his right foot. Full credit to the ‘keeper, though, as he parried with his right leg, denying the England striker another international goal. Lineker, when playing to his capacity, was often making good use of the channels, and he had often tried to stretch Ferri into wide positions here too, especially in the second half.
He had been a greater threat than any of the two from the Liverpool duo of Beardsley and Barnes, with the former by now replaced by the young Platt. Platt was yet another English debutant, the fourth, and he had slotted straight into Beardsley’s position, playing just off Lineker. Barnes had, in all fairness, showed some fine touches, but he had rarely been able to get into good crossing positions from his flank, and he was much less involved than Waddle had been.
Visitors holding on to clean sheet
There really is not a whole lot of positives to comment on Italy’s attacking play, but at least they are clinging on to their clean sheet. There had been times when their three man defensive line had been drawn out into the deep end, but they had survived thus far, and five minutes from time it looks like they will be able to return back home with a draw. Baresi had only twice crossed the halfway line ball at feet, something which was almost unheard of for him, whilst Bergomi and Ferri had been solid enough. Bergomi was without a designated opponent (Ferri kept with Lineker throughout), so he was instrumental whenever the English left hand side came into action, assisting De Napoli in keeping Pearce (Winterburn)/Barnes quiet. After Hodge had come into the home side’s midfield, he would attempt a couple of runs from the deep, and not always tracked back by the midfielders, Bergomi would monitor any such movements, denying the Nottingham man much space to run into.
In something of a demonstration of his unhappiness with the two strikers, Vicini withdrew Vialli seven minutes from time, bringing on the richly talented Baggio for his first taste of Wembley. Vialli, since long having let his socks drop down to his ankles, had not seen much of the ball in the second period, and he had mainly been a peripheral figure as a left-sided striker, having combined decently with Donadoni and De Napoli on the right before the half-time break. It seemed apt to take him off, even if putting Baggio in a forward role was perhaps not an outright recipe for Italian success, or at least not in this particular fixture. Perhaps the idea was for the Fiorentina ace to try and hold the ball up, or even create a piece of magic more or less on his own, but in honesty it did seem a futile attempt to take the remainder of the game to the hosts.
England look to threaten inside the final few minutes
Right on the stroke of full time, Beasant makes his first interception since coming on when he easily claims Baggio’s ball forward into space for Berti. Until then, the big stopper had only dealt with back passes, so it had been a remarkably quiet debut for the goalkeeper. Down the other end, Waddle had once again had a shot well over goal from around 25 yards when cutting inside from his right hand side, whilst his omnipresence had almost presented Lineker with an opportunity to head at goal on 88 minutes: Waddle combined with Barnes along the left, before his cross into the box reached the striker. However, Lineker’s header had come off Ferri for the umpteenth corner of the second half.
The referee calls an end to the game 41 seconds into time added on, and it is clearly the visiting players who have the greatest reason to be happy about the outcome. Having repelled English waves of attacks for almost 90 minutes, they had come away with a somewhat fortuitous draw. The two managers can walk onto the pitch where they shake hands, one pleased with the play, the other pleased with the outcome.
Italy start off playing a possession game, but the hosts will soon take over, and England will dominate almost non-stop through to the full time whistle. However, they struggle to create clear cut openings on a tight Italian defence, where Zenga at times shows his inability in the air. In a brief spell where they are on top in the first half, Carnevale seems to have given the visitors the lead, only for the ‘goal’ to wrongly be disallowed for offside. Early in the second half, England have a ‘goal’ of their own ruled out, with Butcher, the home captain in the second half after Robson comes off at half-time, having been adjudged to have impeded Zenga prior to Lineker side-footing home. Tough call.
England saw four players make their debuts, and they could take a lot of pride in their performance in a game which was more than ‘just a friendly’, judging by the intensity in some of the challenges, especially on behalf of the English. Italy’s performance left a lot to be desired, and they did not have a single effort on target all game.
1 Shilton 6.7
faces only the situation where Carnevale has his ‘goal’ ruled out, and so has a very quiet evening’s shift
(13 Beasant 6.7
only has a single interception to make on his debut)
2 Stevens 7.1
one of his better attacking contributions in the pre ’90 era, and not challenged at the back
3 Pearce 6.9
not a great deal challenged defensively, and could’ve contributed more as an attacking outlet
(16 Winterburn –
offers more of the same as seen from Pearce)
4 McMahon 6.8
puts in a couple of solid challenges, which is a big part of what Robson wants from his central midfield, though a bit of creativity wouldn’t have gone amiss
(14 Hodge –
has time to make some fine runs from the deep, and is also not out of sorts in possession. A positive cameo)
5 Walker 7.2
competent, quick and assured
6 Butcher 8.0
a powerful display of dominance in both ends of the pitch
7 Robson 7.0
wishes to drive the team forward, but is also a bit late in his decision-making on a couple of occasions
(12 Phelan 6.9
a relatively busy debut which he should’ve crowned with a goal)
8 Waddle 7.5
the big playmaker, and almost always involved when England were building attacks, which they did a lot
9 Beardsley 6.9
fails to be an attacking spark, but does a whole lot of work as the first line of defence, and his recovery work should also not go unnoticed
(15 Platt –
movement, but lesser workrate than Beardsley)
10 Lineker 7.1
good movement, and unfortunate not to have won England the match late on
11 Barnes 6.8
shows some nice touches, but is generally kept quiet along his flank
1 Zenga 6.6
his aerial play leaves quite a bit to be desired, though prevents defeat when he saves from Lineker late on
2 Bergomi 7.1
quietly assured. Great reader of the game, and so positioned himself impeccably
3 Maldini 6.4
far from his type of game, as he seemed somewhat unsure position wise, and struggled when one on one against Waddle
4 Baresi 7.3
the one who stitches the Italian defence together, so he can easily be forgiven for his rare lack of forward contribution
5 Ferri 6.9
committed in his cause against Lineker with some brave defending, but not always confident when lured into channels
6 Berti 6.8
his deep runs not made much use of, so what was left was his workrate, which could hardly be faulted
7 Donadoni 6.7
subjected to some tough tackling early on, which seemed to unsettle him somewhat, and was mainly focused on off the ball duty after that
8 De Napoli 7.0
solid defensively, where his main ambition was looking after Barnes. Rarely seen on the ball inside England’s half
9 Vialli 6.6
works himself into wide positions as always, and poses next to no threat to the opposing defence, though can’t be faulted for his work rate
(18 Baggio –
scarcely time to make an impact, though gives a quick display of his vision when trying to play Berti through)
10 Giannini 6.8
difficult against tigerish opponents, but had a few impressive touches to gain ground. Yet not quite the type of player you need when your possession rate is inferior
11 Carnevale 6.7
tucks away a fine ‘goal’, but is generally kept quiet by opponents. Subject to some big challenges; credit to him for standing tall
(19 Serena –
added height for defensive set-pieces after coming on)