Defending champions Spain were held 1-1 by an increasingly adventurous Italy in an electrifying Group C game, easily the most exciting game of Euro 2012 on Sunday.
Both sides missed open chances but Italy produced their own share of magical attacking moments when they were not back-pedalling to thwart the waves of Spanish red shirts in and around their penalty area. Both goals came in a frenetic four-minute period early in the second half but the rest of the high-quality encounter somehow failed to break the deadlock.The World and European champions started without a striker, leaving Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva to run circles around a revamped Italy defence, where defensive midfielder de Rossi saw plenty of action in his makeshift position as a stopper.
Italy, reeling under the sensational match-fixing inquiry back home that can still hurt some of the players at the Euro, did play Mario Balotelli upfront but the temperamental striker's contribution in the first 30 minutes was a warning by the referee after landing heavily on defender Gerard Pique before being shown the yellow card.
Spain repeatedly stretched the Italian defence with delightful short passing around the penalty area but the holders somehow could not find the final punch. They almost did that close to half-time when Xavi brilliantly passed to Iniesta, but he shot over Gianluigi Buffon and the bar.
But Italy almost grabbed the lead at the other end after Christian Maggio's right wing cross found an unmarked Thiago Motta, but the Paris Saint-Germain defender’s powerful header from six yards out was brilliantly punched away by Iker Casillas.
Spain injected more pace on resumption but Italy continued to pour numbers into their defence. But the most hilarious miss again came at the other end when Balotelli, sent clear, delayed taking a shot for too long to be disposed. The Manchester City striker missed a sitter in the 53rd and was promptly substituted by Antonio Di Natale.
And five minutes later Di Natale put Italy ahead, curling a shot past Casillas to the far corner after playmaker Andrea Pirlo sent him clear after a masterful run. But Spain were back on level terms four minutes later, David Silva delightfully slipping a pass inside the box for Fabregas to drove home.