Torres misfires as gutsy Italy hold Spain

Fernando Torres was guilty of spurning two golden chances as Italy unearthed a performance of real character to hold Spain to a 1-1 draw in their Euro 2012 opener at the PGE Arena in Gdansk.


World and European champions Spain went into the Group C opener as warm favourites, but were met by an Italian side who were every bit as dangerous going forward as their feted opponents in front of 43,615 good-natured fans in the Polish city.

Italy went ahead on 60 minutes after a tight first period, Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale bounding on to an exquisite pass from Andrea Pirlo to lift the ball over goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Italy fans were still celebrating when Spain equalised courtesy of Cesc Fabregas four minutes later.

The Barcelona midfielder evaded the attentions of Emanuele Giaccherini to slip the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon in levelling at 1-1 from David Silva's pass, but there remained plenty of time for Chelsea forward Torres to win it for Spain.

In keeping with the way it has been for him since he left Liverpool for Chelsea 18 months ago, Torres failed miserably.

The £50 million striker did little to suggest he is back to anything close to the form that saw him rise to prominence during his days at Atletico Madrid and Liverpool after replacing Fabregas, as he failed to take the ball beyond Buffon on 74 minutes with the Italian keeper racing from his line to make the sort of tackle a central defender would have been proud of.

Torres scored the winning goal from a similar situation when Spain beat Germany in the Euro 2008 final, but this is a figure clearly short of confidence four years on as hesitancy and lack of purpose infiltrates his movements.

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He hoisted the ball over the bar with only Buffon to beat on 85 minutes when he could have played in fellow substitute Jesus Navas, opting to go for goal only to knock his effort well off target.

To encapsulate a fairly miserable 19-minute cameo, Torres was also lucky to only be booked for elbowing Daniele De Rossi in the throat as he jumped for a high ball. Another referee may well have sent off Torres.

It justified Spain manager Vicente del Bosque's decision to start the match without any recognised forwards as Torres, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente were all left on the bench.

The latter two forwards may expect to see some action against Republic of Ireland in Gdansk on Thursday, when Spain continue their quest to defend the title they won four years ago in Austria and Switzerland.

Spain's best chance in the first period saw Andres Iniesta lift a shot over the bar from Xavi's pass while Casillas was forced to repel Thiago Motta's header second before half-time.

Torres was not the only Premier League forward found wanting in the moment as Manchester City's Mario Balotelli squandered an opportunity to give Italy the lead early in the second period when he robbed Sergio Ramos of the ball out wide.

He seemed to dither for an eternity with only Casillas to overcome, but his hesitancy enabled Ramos to make a fabulous recovery tackle.

Having been booked in the first half for a late tackle on Jordi Alba - one of seven men booked in a fiercely contested match - he was replaced by Di Natale, who had scored within four minutes of his introduction.

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