An Andros Townsend thunderbolt saved England in Turin as they came from a goal down to draw against Italy.
While his Tottenham team mate Harry Kane had been the talk of the town before the game, making his full debut, Townsend’s stunning 79th-minute strike ensured England remain unbeaten this season.
It looked like their run was in serious jeopardy when Southampton striker Graziano Pelle gave a dominant Azzurri a 29th-minute lead. But the Three Lions played themselves into the game after the break and substitute Townsend was their hero.
Italy 1-1 England
Tuesday 31 March 2015
While Joe Hart was winning his 50th cap for England his achievement was dwarfed in the other goal his opposite number Gianluigi Buffon. Ten years Hart’s senior, the Italy captain reached 147 appearances in front of his home fans. But neither keeper could have done much about the two goals.
Marco Parolo’s 10th-minute effort from 30 yards was the first attempt to give Hart something to think about as he pushed over the bar, then Phil Jagielka made a last-ditch clearance from the goalmouth when Citadin Eder looked favourite to finish.
Italy were enjoying more possession, but the Three Lions came close to opening the scoring on 20 minutes when a patient attack and ball into the box landed in the path of Rooney. The skipper cracked an effort into the ground from 15 yards out that bounced over Buffon, leaving him stranded, but hit the crossbar.
However, with the half-hour approaching, the Azzurri took the lead, and it was no surprise to see lively Southampton striker Pelle turning away to celebrate.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini cut in from the left, going past Phil Jones, and delivered a perfect cross to Pelle with a yard of space. His inch-perfect glancing header gave Hart no chance as it nestled inside the post.
Hodgson’s visitors were being seriously tested by Antonio Conte’s side who were also unbeaten in their Euro 2016 campaign.
Looking dangerous on the counter-attack, Alessandro Florenzi’s overhit cross from the right let England off the hook as they were outnumbered. At the other end Theo Walcott had a sight of Buffon’s goal but his 20-yard strike took a slight deflection and bounced safely for the Juve stopper.
Highlights: Italy 1-1 England
With half-time nearing, Chris Smalling went down needing attention, and headed straight off down the tunnel looking groggy. He was replaced by his Manchester United team-mate Michael Carrick. It turned out Smalling was feeling ill and could not continue.
Carrick's introduction settled this visitors and brought a calmness to their game. Hodgson then made another change at the break with Kyle Walker coming on for his first cap since November 2013, in place of Nathaniel Clyne.
Soon after the restart, Hart was called upon to keep England’s deficit at one, saving well from Eder’s close-range effort. Pelle followed up on the loose ball but drilled wide.
Shortly before Ross Barkley was introduced in place of Theo Walcott, the Three Lions crafted two decent openings inside the area – Harry Kane from the right and Kieran Gibbs from the left, but both hit the side-netting.
A series of changes on both sides, including debutant Ryan Mason, unsettled the flow of the game, but looked to have played into England’s favour as they finished strongly – and one of them scored the equaliser.
Rooney had his first shot in anger on 70 minutes. A ball over the top caught Chiellini out and the skipper controlled well before volleying goalwards from 20 yards. Buffon was equal to the task, though, and palmed away to safety.
He came close again moments later, this time attacking a low Kane cross from the right which rolled wide.
But then came the moment the England fans tucked up in the opposite corner had been waiting for, and it was another screamer from Townsend adding to his collection of strikes against Montenegro and San Marino.
Mason prodded a loose ball to his Spurs club-mate 25 yards from goal. He who shifted the ball to the right of the box creating a gap and struck powerfully across Buffon and it arrowed into the corner of the net.
The Italian stopper did have another couple of jobs to do, though, keeping out another Rooney effort inside the box and a stinging Kane strike from distance, while Ciro Immobile and Luca Antonelli had attempts for the home side. But there were no more goals and England had to settle for the draw.
Italy (3-1-4-2): 1 Gianluigi Buffon; 13 Andrea Ranocchia, 19 Leonardo Bonucci, 3 Giorgio Chiellini; 14 Mirko Valdifiori; 18 Alessandro Florenzi, 8 Roberto Soriano, 16 Marco Parolo, 4 Matteo Darmian; 20 Graziano Pelle, 17 Eder.
Substitutes: 2 Ignazio Abate for Florenzi 60; 23 Franco Vazquez for Eder 61; 9 Ciro Immobile for Pelle 61; 10 Marco Verratti for Valdifiori 67; 5 Luca Antonelli for Darmian 73; 24 Emiliano Moretti for Chiellini 72.
Substitutes not used: 6 Antonio Candreva, 7 Simone Zaza, 11 Alessio Cerci, 12 Salvatore Sirigu, 15 Andrea Barzagli, 21 Manolo Gabbiadini, 25 Federico Marchetti, 26 Davide Santon.
Goal: Pelle 29.
Head coach: Antonio Conte.
England (4-1-2-1-2): 1 Joe Hart; 2 Nathaniel Clyne, 5 Chris Smalling, 6 Phil Jones, 3 Kieran Gibbs; 8 Phil Jones; 4 Jordan Henderson, 11 Fabian Delph; 10 Wayne Rooney; 7 Theo Walcott, 9 Harry Kane.
Substitutes: 16 Michael Carrick for Smalling 44; 15 Kyle Walker for Clyne; 20 Ross Barkley for Walcott 55; 17 Andros Townsend for Delph 70; 18 Ryan Mason for Henderson 74; 19 Ryan Bertrand for Gibbs 88.
Substitutes not used: 12 Jack Butland (GK), 13 Robert Green, 14 Gary Cahill.
Bookings: Gibbs, Jones.
Goal: Townsend 79.
Manager: Roy Hodgson.