MILAN: Italy’s pride and status as European champions has been dented after a 2-1 defeat by Spain in their UEFA Nations League semi-final in Milan.
The Azzurri, who won the Euro crown against England on penalties in July, were handicapped by the expulsion of defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Spain stay in Milan for Sunday’s final against World Cup holders France or the world’s top-ranked nation Belgium who meet in the second semi-final in Turin.
The Nations League was created by the European federation UEFA in 2014 to insert a competitive format into the friendly match slots of the international breaks. Finals hosts Portugal became the inaugural champions in 2019.
Spain’s victory brought to an end Italy’s world record run of 37 games unbeaten to avenge their Euro 2020 semi-final penalty shootout defeat by eventual the Azzurri at Wembley.
Manchester City’s Ferran Torres scored Spain’s goals in Milan from two Mikel Oyarzabal crosses. Torres has scored 11 goals for Spain in the last 11 months.
Italy were already 1-0 down when captain Bonucci was sent off for two yellow cards, the second for an elbow on Sergio Busquets.
Lorenzo Insigne scored a late counter-attacking consolation after a dash forward by Federico Chiesa but it was too little too late.
Spain handed 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder Gavi a start, making him the youngest international in their history – less than six weeks after his club debut.