Andros Townsend came off the bench to rescue England from defeat with a spectacular strike in Turin.
Scorers: Italy - Pelle (29); England - Townsend (79)
Harry Kane made a big impact after his introduction from the bench against Lithuania, but last night it was his Tottenham team-mate who stole the limelight.
Nine minutes after entering the pitch, Townsend drove a fierce 20-yard drive past Gianluigi Buffon to earn England a creditable 1-1 draw against Italy at the Juventus Stadium.
England, with Kane in their starting XI for the first time, were poor in the first half.
Wayne Rooney hit the bar, but Italy had the best chances and kept the ball superbly.
Phil Jones looked like a fish out of water playing in the holding midfield role and he gifted Italy the lead when he allowed Giorgio Chiellini to brush him aside and set up Graziano Pelle for the opener. The Southampton striker may have gone 13 Premier League games without a goal, but he glanced past Joe Hart easily after being left unmarked in the box.
England lacked rhythm, width and flair in the first half, but after the introduction of Ross Barkley and Townsend, they looked far more threatening and ended the game on top.
The improved performance was not enough to yield a second goal, but Roy Hodgson will still be happy that his post-World Cup unbeaten run remains intact thanks to Townsend’s third international goal in seven appearances.
When these two nations last met at the World Cup, England hit Italy with wave after wave of attack from the first whistle. It was exactly the opposite here in Turin. England started extremely slowly, allowing the Italians plenty of time on the ball.
There was no chance of the Italians gifting Kane an early goal on his second appearance for England. Chiellini whacked into him early on and he kept tight to the debutant for the rest of the early stages.
Hart, winning his 50th cap, kept out a swirling Marco Parolo shot, but otherwise the England goalkeeper had little to do. However, Phil Jagielka had to put in a crucial block to deny Eder the chance to tap in after some good work down the left by Matteo Darmian.
England finally mustered a threat in the 21st minute. Kane’s header was cleared to Rooney, who hit the bar with a powerful drive. That was England’s only decent attempt of the first half. Their passing was poor and they seemed unable to prise open the Italian defence.
Then, just before the half hour, Italy took the lead. England made it easy for them. Chiellini effortlessly brushed past Jones and whipped in a pinpoint pass to the unmarked Pelle, who glanced the ball into the far corner.
Hodgson rose to his feet, hands on hips. He was not a happy man. The way Chiellini, a centre-half by trade, brushed past the 6ft 1in frame of Jones must have annoyed him the most.
Jones’ evening then worsened when he was booked for clattering into Eder. Hodgson’s night did not get any better either when Chris Smalling hobbled off with an injury. He was replaced by Michael Carrick and Jones dropped back into defence.
England started much better after the break. Kane went close on two occasions, and Kieran Gibbs drove into the side-netting.
Italy were happy to camp in their own half and hit on the break. On one such occasion, Marco Parolo played the ball inside to Eder, who was denied by a brilliant save from Hart.
Barkley came on and Rooney moved up front alongside Kane.
The England captain belted a volley straight at Buffon after giving Chiellini the slip and he almost glanced home a Kane cross moments later.
Jones’ night was summed up when he almost turned the ball into his own net while defending a corner. England looked destined for defeat, but Townsend had other ideas. The winger received the ball just on the edge of the box and fired immediately across a packed box and Buffon into the far corner.
Buffon saved well from Rooney and there was another chance for Kane to add another chapter to his fairytale season when he sneaked through on goal, but the Italian saved well and England had to settle for a draw.
Italy: Buffon, Bonucci, Ranocchia, Chiellini, Darmian, Soriano, Valdifiori, Parolo, Florenzi, Eder, Pelle. Subs: Sirigu, Abate, Antonelli, Candreva, Zaza, Immobile, Verratti, Cerci, Barzagli, Gabbiadini, Vazquez, Moretti, Santon, Marchetti.
England: Hart, Clyne, Smalling, Jagielka, Gibbs, Jones, Delph, Walcott, Rooney, Henderson, Kane. Subs: Butland, Cahill, Walker, Carrick, Townsend, Mason, Bertrand, Barkley, Green.
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