Nathan Ake’s late goal punished a wasteful 10-man Italy as Netherlands rescued a scarcely deserved 1-1 draw in Turin on Monday.
Roberto Mancini’s side, beaten 3-1 by France on Friday, spurned a plethora of chances before Simone Zaza finally struck in a clash between two nations who will assume the unfamiliar role of distant spectators during the World Cup.
But it was Ake who had the last say following Domenico Criscito’s red card, the Bournemouth defender’s header representing Netherlands’ first goal in Italy since 1928.
With both countries looking to rebuild under new management following their respective failures to seal a spot in Russia, it appears as though Oranje boss Ronald Koeman has the more daunting task.
His men produced a largely underwhelming display, salvaged two minutes from time by a goal against numerically disadvantaged opponents.
Despite Ake’s late heroics, the result extends Netherlands’ winless run in friendlies against the Azzurri to 15 matches.
66’ #Zaza , 87’ #Ake ’
A late equaliser in Turin after the #Azzurri went down to ten in the 68th minute when #Criscito was sent off. #VivoAzzurro #ITANED pic.twitter.com/zhnExxWtKa
— Italy (@azzurri) June 4, 2018
Italy – for whom Mario Balotelli started on the bench – thought they had the lead inside three minutes, but Andrea Belotti’s effort was ruled out for offside after he swept home from Giacomo Bonaventura’s set-piece assist.
The visitors struggled to find their rhythm early and even when Ryan Babel and Georginio Wijnaldum combined well to create a crossing opportunity on the left, the former’s delivery failed to threaten.
It was Mancini’s team who looked the more dangerous, though, and Jorginho’s searching pass almost set captain Lorenzo Insigne through on goal.
The deadlock came close to being broken when Simone Verdi’s cross narrowly eluded the outstretched leg of Belotti, before goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen deflected Bryan Cristante’s cutback behind for a corner.
Belotti then missed a gilt-edged chance to underline Italy’s superiority, shooting straight at Cillessen from just 10 yards out.
There was still time for Verdi to see a shot cleared off the line as the Dutch somehow reached the break goalless.
Having been on the back foot for most of the first half, Netherlands very nearly delivered a textbook sucker-punch seven minutes after the interval.
A miscued cross from substitute Daryl Janmaat forced a back-pedalling Mattia Perin to tip the ball over his crossbar.
It seemed as though the visitors were beginning to get a foothold in the game when Memphis Depay connected with Janmaat’s cross, but the Lyon forward’s header was straight at Perin.
Italy finally forged ahead in the 67th minute, Virgil van Dijk hitting Federico Chiesa’s low cross into the sliding Zaza, sending the ball into the net.
66’ #Zaza throws himself at a #Chiesa cross to open the scoring! #VivoAzzurro #ITANED 1-0 pic.twitter.com/LFzlU5vS0x
— Italy (@azzurri) June 4, 2018
Criscito’s mistimed challenge on Babel, which halted the Besiktas’ winger’s progress towards goal, saw him dismissed two minutes later.
The resulting free-kick from Depay forced a finger-tip save from Perin, who went full-length to thwart Steven Berghuis.
But he was beaten at the death, Ake rising highest to nod in Berghuis’ assist.