Norway vs. Italy: Score and Recap for Euro U-21 Championship Match
While Italy had already advanced to the semifinals and Norway was all but assured a spot in the next round as well, first place in Group A was still up for grabs when the two teams met on Tuesday.
And it would be Italy who would top the group after a 1-1 draw that was scoreless for 88 minutes before the two teams traded goals in the final six minutes of play.
Norway thought they had the winner after Stefan Strandberg was fouled in the box by Marco Capuano and took the penalty attempt himself, slotting home the go-ahead in the lower left corner.
But Italy responded deep in stoppage time on what ended up being the game's final touch, as Manolo Gabbiadini found himself on the end of a scramble in the box and didn't disappoint, looping the ball over Norwegian keeper Arild Ostbo and Strandberg to equalize.
That gave Italy seven points in Group A while Norway finished with five. Both teams have now advanced to the semifinals.
Italy was the stronger side throughout the first half but couldn't quite find the final bit of quality to push home the game's first goal, which would obviously come back to haunt the side.
Nicola Sansone and Luca Caldirola both had multiple chances in the first half to give Italy the lead but couldn't find the netting, while Norway would barely test Italian keeper Francesco Bardi.
Italy nearly broke through in the 42nd minute, as a series of nice passes would end with Mattia Destro turning and firing a shot. But Ostbo was up to the task, knocking aside the shot attempt and diffusing the threat.
Still, it was a half dominated by the Azzurri, as the team held 61 percent of possession and took nine shots to Norway's two.
The second half started as cagey as the first half had ended, but Italy had a brilliant chance to take the lead in the 58th minute. Destro was played behind the Norwegian defense by a Fausto Rossi through-ball and a deft touch put him past Ostbo to the right of the box, but from a somewhat difficult angle he could only put his shot into the side netting.
It was a disappointing miss, as he even could have centered a pass for Alberto Paloschi, who was racing down the left flank in the clear.
Two minutes later, Destro would miss again. After Paloschi won the ball back and found Destro in the box, the striker's attempt sailed over the bar, another promising chance gone.
Despite having been outplayed for much of the game, however, Norway nearly took the lead in the 65th minute. Vegar Hedenstad took a free kick from some distance and absolutely drilled it, beating Bardi. He couldn't beat the crossbar, however, and the ball bounced out of play.
Italy came close on their own free kick in the 80th minute, but Manolo Gabbiadini's shot sailed just over the bar.
And then, the controversy, as Strandberg was fouled in the box in the 88th minute and handled his business. The Italians certainly didn't agree with the call, but Capuano did clearly drag Strandberg to the ground by his arm.
But Gabbiadini played the role of hero in the waning stages of stoppage time, preserving Italy's slot atop Group A. Ostbo put himself in no man's land and Gabbiadini brilliantly pulled off a standing bicycle, somehow finding the back of the net.
Man of the Match: Manolo Gabbiadini
Neither team was particularly inspiring in this contest—and the best player through 93 minutes, Ostbo, made a crucial error in the game-tying goal, as he was caught way off his line—so I'm going to give the award to the man who won Italy the group, Gabbiadini.
Put simply, it was probably a lucky strike, but he had the wherewithal and confidence to attempt the shot and it found the net. Either Spain or Netherlands will be a brutal opponent, but Italy can at least say they took Group A thanks to Gabbiadini.
Italy, winners of Group A, will face the loser of Wednesday's match between Spain and Netherlands (or Spain in the event of a draw), while Norway will face the winner of that match (or Netherlands in the event of a draw), as both teams have automatically advanced to the next round.
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