With three exquisite touches of control, technique and finish, Federico Chiesa finished 95 minutes of Italian disappointment.
This record team is in the quarterfinals of the European Championship with a defense that finally allowed a goal after more than 19 hours, but with a record 12th victory for the national team.
After a breeze in the group stage of Euro 2020, Italy was forced to fight for its 2-1 victory over Austria on Saturday in a match of the last 16, which came to life in overtime.
Roberto Mancini’s reserves made the difference with the goals of Chiesa and Matteo Pesina at Wembley Stadium.
“We needed fresh energy,” Mancini said, “and the boys who showed up were brilliant.”
An unmarked Chiesa headed down Leonardo Spinazola’s high cross, controlled the bouncing ball with his right boot, and then used his other foot to shoot low into the net.
“Usually when the ball arrives like that, you try to volley for the first time,” Chiesa said. “But I think the goal came because I was composed, calm and focused.”
The goal took the clock back 25 years, when the European Championship matches were last played in England and his father, Enrico Chiesa, scored for Italy. However, Euro ’96 ended in the group stage for Italy.
A quarter-final match is now set in Munich on Friday against the winner of Sunday’s match between defending champions Portugal and top-ranked Belgium.
“Ideally, we’d like to avoid both,” Mancini said, “but that’s not possible.”
After scoring seven unanswered goals in the group stage, Italy did not cope so easily with the Austrian team, which is playing for the first time in a knockout at the European Championship.
“After 90 minutes, we said we just had to improve the quality of the final passes,” said Spinazola, “and finally the goals arrived in extra time.”
Individual skills led to a breakthrough from Chiesa. Italy’s second was more for calm in the fight against the door. Pesina, who came in the middle of the second half, sent the ball into the far corner of the net in the 105th minute.
“Everyone can score in this team and that is our main strength,” Pesina said. “We’re a great band.”
The team spirit was clear in the harsh emotion of the goal celebrations, as teammates collapsed against Pesina, a late change in the team’s injury.
“He’s not a player I’ve necessarily dug up – he’s doing brilliantly for Atalanta,” Mancini said. “He has certainly proven to be a top player and I think he will have a great future with Italy because I think he will only improve.”
Italy also celebrated in overtime after setting a world record for minutes played without conceding a goal in international football. The previous record was also in Italy and was set with goalkeeper Dino Zof in the team. The Italians spent 1143 minutes between 1972 and 1974 without conceding a goal.
But Italy soon lost for the first time in 1168 minutes, from a set in the 114th minute, when Sasa Kalajdzic kicked the ball from a corner.
“Maybe Italy was a little nervous,” said Austrian defender David Alaba.
The Austrian return ended there, and Italy continued its 31st consecutive undefeated match – another record of the national team.
Video review also helped.
Austria took 63 minutes for their first shot, then found the net two minutes later. Alaba headed the ball through the penalty area, and Marko Arnautovic nodded past Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma. But the video review showed that Arnautovic’s right shoe was offside.
“We are disappointed and sad,” said Austrian coach Franco Foda. “We need justice in football, but today it hit us. It was close to offside and we have to live with it. “