SPANISH coach Vicente del Bosque last night stuck up for his eyebrow-raising decision to name a starting line-up without a recognised centre forward after his team narrowly avoided defeat to Italy during their opening game of the European Championship.
The defending champions grabbed a second half equaliser through Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas, who had been named in an unconventional centre forward role.
“We wanted to look for superiority in the midfield and we know that Fabregas and [David] Silva have the ability to get into scoring positions. It didn’t work out too badly and Fabregas did some great work,” Del Bosque said after the match.
Fabregas admitted that he was “surprised” to be named as a centre forward, yet was pleased to be back among the goals.
Spain dominated possession in the opening half, but were stifled by a well-drilled Italian defence. Unfazed by the Spanish passing game, a confident Italy fired in four first half shots on goal – twice as many as Spain.
And on the hour mark the Italians took the lead after a brilliant run and through-ball by Andrea Pirlo set up Antonio Di Natale to side-foot past Iker Casillas.
Just four minutes later a trademark Spanish passing move involving Andres Iniesta and Silva cut open the Italian defence for Fabregas to drill a first-time left foot shot past the oncoming Gianluigi Buffon.
Fernando Torres replaced Fabregas on 74 minutes but spurned several chances to give his team the win.