Euro 2012 – Day 3, As It Happened
By: Henry Whitfield
Spain were saved an embarrassing opening fixture after a Cesc Fabregas goal gave them a point in a 1-1 draw with Italy.
In the late game, Ireland were beaten 3 – 1 by Croatia, finding themselves on the wrong end of an iffy goal and an own goal.
– – –
Italy 1 – 1 Spain
Spain come into the tournament as defending Champions and World Cup champions, but they failed to show up and were unable to take more than a point off of Italy.
Italy enjoyed much of the early possession and while they were forced to defend at times, they were able to hold their line and bully the Spanish midfield to control the first half.
While much of the presume talk was of the powerhouse midfield of Spain, Italy pushed forward from the back, which was expertly marshalled by the veteran defender Daniele De Rossi.
After a scoreless first 50 minutes, substitute Antonio Di Natale was brought on to the pitch for an ineffective Mario Balotelli. His impact was immediate, as he was sent in to score the go ahead goal after an Andrea Pirlo through ball found him in space.
The Italian joy was short live, as Cesc Fabregas was the recipient of a magical play between Andres Iniesta and David Silva, that saw him finish a quick shot under the body of veteran Gianluigi Buffon.
Chelsea forward Fernando Torres was brought on to spur the Spanish attack, but he was wasteful despite some good movement and will be disappointed with his failure to make an impact.
Man Of the Match: Daniele De Rossi
– – –
Croatia 3 – 1 Republic of Ireland
What was supposed to be a dream outing at the Euro’s and a chance to gain a great footing in the group turned into a nightmare for Irish, never really getting in to the game.
Just three minutes into the game Mario Mandzukic’s gave the Croatians the lead and they never looked back.
Croatia continued their strong showing throughout the first half, but terrible marking by Vedran Corluka saw the Irish pull even on a Sean St. Ledger header off a set piece.
Nikica Jelavic made it 2-1 just after half-time on a sneaky goal that caught the Irish defence standing still, with confusion as to whether Jelavic was onside well and truly abound.
However, a strike by Mandzukic finished them off, with the ball going off the head of Keeper Shay Given into the net and sealing the Irish fate with a 3-1 loss.
A late claim for a penalty was turned down by the referee, despite the clear foul on Robbie Keane coming in the box.
The Irish will not have many positives to look back on and now face a steep challenge to make it to the next round, needing results against both Spain and Italy in their next two matches.
Man Of the Match: Mario Mandzukic
– – –
Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.