GENK, Belgium (Reuters) – Italy substitute Matteo Politano struck in the final minute of stoppage time to snatch a deserved 1-0 win over the United States in a friendly on Tuesday.
Roberto Mancini’s side had scored just three times in their last five matches and left it late to ensure victory over the U.S. despite dominating possession and creating several excellent chances throughout the 90 minutes.
Mancini made seven changes from the 0-0 draw with Portugal in Milan on Saturday and secured second spot in Nations League Group A3, handing a debut to Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi.
However, his refreshed team looked destined for another stalemate until Inter Milan winger Politano drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Ethan Horvath in the dying moments.
Leonardo Bonucci had spurned a glorious chance after 18 minutes when he sprung the offside trap to meet Sensi’s free-kick, only for Horvath to rush out and block the effort.
The American keeper was called into action again in the final five minutes of the half, tipping over a long-range Domenico Berardi effort before beating away a dangerous Marco Verratti set piece as Italian pressure mounted.
The Azzurri continued to dominate after the break and another great chance went begging when Kevin Lasagna was sent clean through only to see his finish smothered by Horvath.
Italy were nearly made to pay for their profligacy five minutes later as the U.S. came close with their first chance of the game, keeper Salvatore Sirigu rescuing Italy with a superb reaction save from a Walker Zimmerman header.
Midway through the second half Juventus’ 18-year-old striker Moise Kean came on and became the first senior Italy player born after the year 2000, but it was fellow debutant Vincenzo Grifo of Hoffenheim, a halftime substitute, who came closest as his long-range effort was acrobatically tipped wide by Horvath.
With five minutes remaining Kean held the ball up inside the area only for Lasagna to collect it and fire over from close range, but the Udinese striker’s blushes were spared when Politano rattled in his 94th minute strike.
(Writing by Alasdair Mackenzie in Rome; Editing by Ken Ferris)