Sports Desk, Jun 15 (EFE).- Joselu’s goal with two minutes left in regulation made the difference for Spain in Thursday’s Nations League semifinal against Italy.
Spain will battle Croatia, who defeated host nation the Netherlands in the first semifinal, on Sunday at De Kuip in Rotterdam for the privilege of hoisting the second UEFA Nations League trophy.
The final represents an opportunity for Luis de la Fuente, who took charge of La Roja last December, to win silverware that could buy him some time to build a squad of the quality of the powerhouse side that won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European championships.
The Spaniards started brightly in the game at Twente Stadion in Enschede and went ahead in the 3rd minute on a goal by Yeremy Pino after a giveaway by veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci.
The Azzurri, who would end the match with just 37 percent possession, got the chance to pull level in the 11th minute after debutante Spanish defender Robin Le Normand was cited for a hand ball.
Ciro Immobile scored from the penalty spot to make it 1-1 and Italy thought they had taken the lead in the 21st with Davide Frattesi’s goal, but VAR chalked it off for offside.
Alvaro Morata tested Gianluigi Donnarumma in the 26th minute and Manchester City’s Rodri – fresh off the Cityzens’ Champions League triumph – sent a header over the cross-bar on a corner.
Donnarumma dealt easily with an effort from Morata in the 43rd minute and Rafael Toloi fired wide on Italy’s best chance since the disallowed goal, leaving the sides deadlocked at the break.
La Roja continued to set the pace in the second half, but struggled to convert their dominance into a goal and it took a tremendous save by Spain keeper Unai Simon to stop Nicolo Zaniola from grabbing the lead for Italy in the 66th minute.
With the score still 1-1 in the 84th minute, De la Fuente withdrew Morata in favor of Joselu, who needed just four minutes to deliver the winning goal.
The 33-year-old Espanyol striker now has a goal in each one of his three appearances for the national team.