Aritz Aduriz marked his long-awaited return to the international fold by snatching a 1-1 friendly draw for Spain against Italy at Stadio Friuli.
The 35-year-old Athletic Bilbao striker, winning his second cap after a wait of almost five-and-a-half years, converted from close range with 20 minutes to play as the home defence’s legitimate protests for an offside call against Alvaro Morata went unheeded.
It had been a frustrating outing until that point for Aduriz and his attacking team-mates as a much-changed Spain line-up struggled for fluency – the injury absence of Sergio Busquets keenly felt in midfield as Italy dominated for long periods.
Napoli attacker Lorenzo Insigne dazzled as a second-half substitute and crowned an excellent team move to give Italy an ultimately short-lived lead in the 67th minute.
It was a busy night for David de Gea in the Spain goal, with the Manchester United goalkeeper further pushing his claims for a starting berth ahead of Iker Casillas when Vicente del Bosque’s men defend their European title in three months’ time.
Following a minute’s silence to pay tribute to Johan Cruyff, Italy made an encouraging start using the experimental 3-4-3 system employed by outgoing coach Antonio Conte.
Matteo Darmian’s pass released Antonio Candreva down the right and Sergio Ramos cleared for a corner with Graziano Pelle poised to convert.
De Gea got down superbly in the 15th minute to keep a low drive out of the corner from Candreva – whose bright start continued when he whipped another dangerous ball across the face of goal.
While delivering instructions he hoped might turnaround his team’s lacklustre opening, Del Bosque collided with the linesman and was left amusingly sprawled on the turf.
Aduriz strayed marginally offside when he looked to slide home Morata’s low 38th-minute cross in what proved to be Spain’s most encouraging moment of the first half.
Eder hesitated to have an early second-half chance snuffed out by Juanfran and his replacement Insigne announced himself by forcing De Gea to push a 20-yard strike around his left post as the hour approached.
Leonardo Bonucci should have given Italy the lead from the resulting corner, but misjudged his header from Alessandro Florenzi’s delivery.
Florenzi was the latest man to be frustrated by De Gea’s razor-sharp reflexes before the deserved opener arrived in the 67th minute.
A sweeping Italy counter-attack found Emanuele Giaccherini on the left and he slid a measured ball into the area for Insigne to finish.
Given their passive contribution to the contest up until that point, Spain’s swift response was something of a surprise.
Gianluigi Buffon parried from Morata and, despite the goalkeeper’s Juventus team-mate appearing to be offside on the end of Cesc Fabregas’ free-kick, Aduriz’s strike stood when he lashed home the rebound.
The latter goalscorer instantly made way for David Silva, while Insigne resumed his personal duel with De Gea – the Spain man soaring to push a dipping strike over.
Spain travel to Romania on Sunday, while Italy have a date with world champions Germany on Tuesday.
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