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Italy lose Nations League top spot after Dutch draw

Italy lost top spot in their Nations League group after a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Bergamo on Wednesday.

The ‘Azzurri’ had won 1-0 in Amsterdam last month but have now been held in three of their last four matches, including Sunday’s goalless draw against Poland in Gdansk.

Roberto Mancini’s side drop to second in League A, Group 1 on six points, one behind the Poles who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0.

The Netherlands are third with five points, with all still to play for as three teams chase a place in the competition finals with two group games left in November.

“We will win the next two,” warned Italy coach Roberto Mancini. “The match against Poland will not put pressure on us: we will win the next two and qualify.”

Italy broke through after a quarter of an hour with Nicolo Barella splitting the Dutch defence with a pass for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who made no mistake from close range.

But Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek drew the Dutch level less than 10 minutes later when he fired home on the rebound from Memphis Depay’s shot.

Ciro Immobile missed two chances to put the hosts ahead with goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen denying the Lazio striker shortly before Van de Beek struck, and again just after the hour mark.

“They changed their tactical set-up,” said Mancini, who extended his unbeaten run as Italy coach to 19 matches.

“It hasn’t happened to us for a long time. It was a hard-fought game, we had the best opportunities.

“The Netherlands are a strong team, we knew it was going to be a tough match.”

New Dutch coach Frank de Boer has not yet won since taking over after Ronald Koeman’s departure for Barcelona.

But de Boer was pleased with how his side pushed the Italians, despite missed opportunities with a Luuk de Jong’s free header off target before the break and Gianluigi Donnarumma denying Depay on 55 minutes.

“I’m quite disappointed because we want to finish first,” said de Boer. 

“We had to win, unfortunately it didn’t happen. But on the other hand I can say that it was positive because if we play like tonight, it gives us confidence and bodes well for the future.” 

The Italian national team was playing in Bergamo for the first time in 14 years, the match also a tribute to a region devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are sorry not to have won for this city that hosted us,” said Mancini.

Only 1,000 spectators were allowed into Atalanta’s Gewiss Stadium, including 243 mayors from the Bergamo province and front-line health workers who have grappled with the pandemic.

Both teams have two fixtures left with Italy hosting Poland on November 15 and the Netherlands at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the final round of games three games later.

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