Cesc Fabregas rescued a point for Spain as the champions began their defence of the European title against a stout Italian side.

Substitute Di Natale opened the scoring on the hour mark, but Spain quickly responded through Fabregas.

Fernando Torres could have sealed all three points at the death, but his run of poor form continued and did not look like ending any time soon.

Spain adopted the ‘false number nine’ formation which saw them line up without a recognisable striker on the field, this enabled Del Bosque to field six midfielders with Iniesta, Silva and Fabregas given free roaming roles. Despite Spain’s fluidity they lacked a natural forward leading the line until Torres came on late in the second half.

Silva was lively early on as he fired over from 25 yards and then saw his tame strike easily saved by Buffon after Iniesta broke with pace. But Spain found it difficult mustering up any meaningful efforts on goal.

Defensively Italy were resilient and in the final third they were dangerous. Balotelli and Cassano lead the Italian front line, harassing the Spanish defenders.

With 13 minutes on the clock Casillas was called in to action as he parried Andrea Pirlo’s low free kick.

Claudio Marchisio then saw his fierce strike comfortably saved by Casillas which would have nestled in the back of the net had it not been straight at the Spaniard.

On the stroke of half time both teams could have opened the scoring. First Xavi released Iniesta whose attempted lob could only find the roof of the net. Then at the other end Cassano bombed down the right and crossed for Thiago Motta whose header was superbly saved by Casillas keeping the scores level as both sides went in to the interval level.

After the interval Spain played with more poise and purpose as Buffon was called into action. Iniesta again beat the Italian defence but was denied by a fantastic fingertip save.

At the other end, Balotelli should have tested Casillas but the Manchester City striker dallied on the ball as Ramos got back to make a vital tackle.

Di Natale then replaced Balotelli, and to an immediate effect. Pirlo’s decisive through ball found the Udinese striker unmarked and the substitute calmly placed the ball past the onrushing Casillas.

The goal stunned Spain, but the champions soon hit back. Silva’s flick on the edge of the box found Fabregas whose neat finish leveled the scores, with Italy having been in the lead for a mere four minutes.

Fernando Torres replaced Cesc Fabregas as Del Bosque went in search of a winner and the Chelsea striker was immediately the focal point of Spain’s offensive play. First the striker beat the offside trap and attempted to round Buffon, but the veteran keeper stayed on his feet to dispossess Torres. Then just moments later Xavi and Torres played a delicate one two before Torres executed a deadly chip beating Buffon but narrowly drifting over the bar, much to the anguish of Torres and his fellow Spaniards.

Stout defending and precise passing proved effective for the Italians as they nearly snatched an unlikely winner in the dyeing seconds, Sebastian Giovinco found Di Natale five yards out but his volley flew just wide.

Despite a great effort from Italy, the main talking point has to be Torres and his wasted opportunities. The striker is clearly lacking confidence, which won’t be boosted by Del Bosque’s decision to field six midfielders ahead of a natural striker.


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