Without a victory against Spain in over two decades – last celebrating victory over la Roja in March 2002 – Milena Bertolini made five changes to the Italian side that were defeated 1-0 by Sweden last month. Meanwhile, visiting 2023 World Cup winners Spain began the contest in Salerno atop Group A4, after winning both matches to kick-off the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League tournament.
ITA: Giuliani; Bartoli, Lenzini, Linari, Boattin; Di Guglielmo, Caruso, Galli, Bonansea; Bonfantini, Girelli
SPA: Coll; Batlle, Codina, Aleixandri, Carmona; Bonmatí, Abelleira, Putellas; González, García, Caldentey
On the losing side in just one of their five historical head-to-head encounters, Spain showcased a one-sided display of attacking dominance throughout the opening quarter-hour of the contest, as only a sublime sequence of saves from Italian goalkeeper Laura Giuliani kept the visitors from netting a deserving opening goal.
At the opposite end of the pitch, the welcome return of talismanic defenders Ona Batlle and Laia Codina to la Roja’s backline restricted the hosts to only a solitary effort on goal – compared to the visitors’ unparalleled eight.Embed from Getty Images
Somewhat thankfully for the Italians, their so-far superior Spanish visitors took their foot off the attacking pedal throughout the remainder of a one-sided first half, as Milena Bertolini busily prepared her half-time team talk in anticipation of an improvement from her side following the 15-minute break.
Bertolini’s motivational words indeed nearly did the trick after only three minutes of the second half, as Barbara Bonansea’s ambitious effort from the fringes of the penalty area forced Spanish goalkeeper Cata Coll into only her second meaningful save of the match.
Surprisingly not as ineffective in front of goal as they were throughout the first half, Montse Tomé summoned the services of the returning Jenni Hermoso from the substitutes’ bench for the final 22 minutes of regular time in the hope of a late breakthrough.
With time running out in the contest, Tomé’s alteration ultimately turned out to be a game-changing one as Hermoso fired in a sublimely-struck rebound into the corner of the net past Giuliani in the 89th minute.Embed from Getty Images
The goal extends Spain’s lead at the summit of the group standings over Sweden to three points.
Meanwhile, the late drama at the Stadio Arechi leaves Italy in third spot with only the solitary victory from three matches.