It was a disappointing night in Lisbon as Portugal shone at the Estadio da Luz, beating Italy 1-0 with Andre Silva scoring the only goal after being picked by Fernando Santos to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. It was a bitter and tough blow for the Azzurri following the draw against Poland that kicked off the Nations League.
In order to take on the reigning European champions, Mancini shook up the team and system. Donnarumma and Jorginho were the only players who remained from the team that started against Poland with Lazzari and Criscito starting at full-back. Caldara and Romagnoli formed the centre-back partnership with Jorginho and Cristante in the centre of midfield while Chiesa and Bonaventura played out wide. Zaza and Immobile formed the strike partnership with the Lazio forward promoted to captain in the absence of Chiellini. Italy needed to respond and Coach responded immediately, asking Italy to play quicker and get the ball forward.
That could be seen in the second minute when Chiesa beat Mario Rui in a challenge before looking to cross to the far post but Rui Patricio intercepted the ball. Portugal went close in the fifth minute but William Carvalho was pulled back by the Scottish referee William Collum for offside. The match got off to a lively start with Portugal posing a threat on the break despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo while Italy looked to replicate them. Portugal almost took the lead in the 27th minute when a Bernardo Silva was cleared off the line by Romagnoli. In the 32nd minute, it was the crossbar that saved Italy and prevented an own goal after the ball looped up off Cristante. The first half finished with Italy under pressure. In the 34th minute, Pizzi appealed for a penalty under a challenge from Criscito while William Carvalho fired just wide of the post.
While Mancini’s squad continued to struggle in the final 16 metres, Portugal instead managed to finish off one of their chances just four minutes after the interval. The opening goal came following a counter-attack from Bruma that troubled the Azzurri defence, with Andre Silva then slotting the ball past Donnarumma at the back post. Boosted by the goal, the hosts then pushed hard for a second with Bernardo Silva forcing a superb save from Donnarumma in the 54th minute.
After 59 minutes, Mancini sent on Berardi in place of Immobile, although Portugal remained on top and Bernardo Silva tested Donnarumma once again in the 69th minute. Italy continuously struggled to get going when going forwards, with their movement sluggish. Criscito then made way for another debutant in Emerson Palmieri. The 78th minute saw Zaza try his luck with a header, with Belotti replacing Cristante one minute later. It was a more offensive change and Italy kept pushing, although without much luck as the game petered out.