European Under-21 Championship: Italy find late equaliser to draw with Norway
Last Updated: 11/06/13 10:19pm
Joshua King: Drags the ball away from Marco Capuano in an entertaining 1-1 draw in Tel Aviv
Italy scored a stoppage-time equaliser to earn a dramatic 1-1 draw against Norway to top Group A in the European Under-21 Championship.
Norway looked to have won it thanks to a late penalty won and converted by Stefan Strandberg but Andrea Bertolacci levelled things up with the final kick of the game to restore parity.
The Norwegians were not mathematically certain of reaching the last four as defeat here coupled with a heavy win for Israel against England would have seem them eliminated.
But the draw means both teams will progress to the semi-finals and it would have been harsh on the Italians not to have done so as group winners after dominating the contest.
Italy showed the greater cutting edge in the early stages with Nicola Sansone to the fore thanks to his willingness to try his luck from distance. The Parma man fired off a long range shot after 11 minutes that Arild Ostbo clung onto and the Italian then curled an effort just wide of the far post midway through the first half.
Italy continued to dominate as they searched for the opener and Fausto Rossi came close to finding the breakthrough when his shot was deflected wide of the target. Ostbo then acrobatically tipped a headed effort from Italy skipper Luca Caldirola over the crossbar from the resultant corner moments later.
The Norwegian keeper was the star of the show before the break and pulled off another fine save when saved one-handed down low to his right to deny Mattia Destro just before the interval.
In the second half Destro did beat Ostbo, rounding the keeper after breaking the offside trap, but he delayed his shot and could only find the sidenetting with the goal gaping.
It was all Italy at that stage but Norway gave a reminder of their threat after 65 minutes when Vegar Eggen Hedenstad struck a superb free-kick that rattled the crossbar.
And just as the game looked to be heading for a stalemate, Strandberg was hauled to the ground by Caldirola inside the area and got to his feet to calmly slot home the resultant spot-kick.
That looked like settling things but in the fourth-minute of added time, Ostbo failed to get hold of a ball launched into the box and Bertolacci hooked a superb improvised finish to score with Strandberg the man beaten on the line.
The two teams must now wait to see who they will meet in the last four with Norway set to face the winner of the game between Spain and Holland in Group B on Wednesday.
European Under-21 Championship Group A
European Under-21 Championship Group B