Player ratings as Joselu winner books Nations League final date with Croatia

Joselu bagged a dramatic late winner for Spain as they beat Italy 2-1 to book a Nations League final date with Croatia.

The 33-year-old, who is likely to join Real Madrid from relegated Espanyol this summer, was on hand to turn the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma from close range after Rodri’s deflected shot had fallen at his feet.

Yeremy Pino scored an early goal for Spain, capitalising on a lapse in concentration from Leonardo Bonucci, before Ciro Immobile equalised from the penalty spot following a handball from debutant Robin Le Normand.

But in a repeat of the result of Spain vs Italy in this competition two years ago, it is Luis de la Fuente’s side who will meet Croatia in the final after they were inspired to a 4-2 win over the Netherlands by the evergreen Luka Modric.

Spain’s starting lineup included veteran full-backs Jesus Navas and Jordi Alba, while there was also a start up front for Alvaro Morata. Italy lined up in their familiar 3-5-2 role shape, with Roberto Mancini’s side led in midfield by Nicolo Barella, who has emerged as a shock target for Newcastle United in recent days.

And it didn’t take long for the fireworks to get underway at the De Grosch Veste as Italy were caught napping by Spain’s high intensity press.

Donnarumma passed the ball short to veteran centre-back Bonucci but after turning away from Morata’s initial press, he ran into the onrushing Pino. The young Villarreal star then showed great composure to bend the ball home into the corner.

Less than eight minutes later, Le Normand’s dream debut for Spain turned into a nightmare as he was penalised for handling Nicolo Zaniolo’s cross. Lazio striker Immobile stepped up for Italy to take the spot kick and he sent Unai Simon the wrong way with a powerful drive into the bottom left corner.

Ciro Immobile

Ciro Immobile scored a penalty for Italy / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

Italy thought they had taken the lead ten minutes later but Davide Frattesi was ruled out for offside, before Morata’s low shot was palmed away by Donnarumma.

The former Chelsea striker was again denied either side of the half-time interval – Donnarumma saving his first effort before he fired wide after the break – and Mikel Merino was also kept out by the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper.

Simon produced a superb save of his own just past the hour mark, keeping Frattesi’s first time effort out after Federico Dimarco had burst forward down the left wing.

But Spain weren’t to be denied their place in the final as Joselu slotted home from inside the six-yard box with just minutes remaining. Alba’s cross was cleared as far as Rodri and the Champions League winner’s effort eventually found its way to the feet of a striker who looks set to move to Real Madrid this summer.

He did the rest, booking a date with Croatia in the final on Sunday. Italy will take on Netherlands in the third-place play-off.

Spain player ratings (4-2-3-1): Simon (7), Navas (7), Le Normand (6), Laporte (7), Alba (7); Rodri (8), Merino (7); Rodrigo (7), Gavi (7), Pino (8); Morata (7)

Subs: Asensio (6), Canales (6), Fati (6), Ruiz (6), Joselu (7)

Italy player ratings (3-5-2): Donnarumma (7), Toloi (6), Bonucci (5), Acerbi (6); Di Lorenzo (6), Barella (7), Jorginho (6), Frattesi (7), Spinazzola (6); Zaniolo (7), Immobile (7)

Subs: Dimarco (7), Darmian (6), Chiesa (6), Cristante (6), Verratti (6)

Player of the Match: Yeremy Pino (Spain)

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