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International friendly: Netherlands 1 Italy 1

Marco Verratti came off the bench to earn Italy a dramatic and undeserved 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Jeremain Lens’ wonderful volley appeared certain to earn the Dutch a first ever friendly win over Italy, but the visitors levelled matters in the first minute of injury time through their Paris Saint-Germain playmaker.

The Netherlands dominated the opening half hour, with Adam Maher twice drawing wonderful reaction saves out of veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

In the first instance, the Italy skipper blocked with his feet after Robin van Persie and Ola John combined well to open up the visitors down the right-hand side.

The Dutch enjoyed further success down the same flank moments later but again Maher was denied by Buffon, the Juventus legend clawing away the AZ playmaker’s instinctive volley.

The goal that Netherlands were threatening, and thoroughly deserved, finally arrived on 33 minutes – and it was worth waiting for, Lens giving Buffon no chance with a thumping volley after brilliantly flicking the ball over Davide Astori’s outstretched right leg.

Credit to Italy, they responded well to falling behind and three times Ignazio Abate got in behind the Dutch back four only to fail to pick out a man in the centre on each occasion.

Both sides made two changes during the interval but Netherlands continued to carry the greater attacking threat, with Arjen Robben, who had come on in place of van Persie, clearly intent on proving his worth to coach Louis van Gaal.

The winger looked lively right from the off, almost immediately creating an opening for John, who could only shoot straight at Buffon.

As is customary in such fixtures, the substitutions just kept coming and they rather inevitably took the edge off what had been an absorbing encounter up until the break.

The Netherlands still looked the more likely to score, with Kevin Strootman drilling a long-range effort just wide before John and Robben both tested Buffon with well-struck drives.

Italy came to life in the closing stages and, after Pablo Osvaldo and Alberto Gilardino had both gone close, the latter set up fellow substitute Verratti for an equaliser in the dying seconds.

The Paris Saint-Germain playmaker did wonderfully well to hold off his man and lift the ball over Tim Krul, silencing the home fans in the process.

Wed 6 February, 2013
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