In a match that highlighted Italy's tactical deficiencies, Roberto Mancini's men were frustrated by a resolute Poland team.
In somewhat of an alien environment for the Italian national side, this game was played at Bologna's Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. One of the country's oldest stadia - built in 1925 - it was certainly an interesting venue for the new Azzurri boss to make his competitive start.
An average first 45 minutes overall, there were more bookings than clear cut chances. Italy seemed tentative in possession, lacking control and width. Bogged down in the central area, Poland seemed happy to wait for counter attacking opportunities.
The away side soon got their wish. With Jorginho losing the ball in a perilous position after trying too much, an inch perfect Robert Lewandowski cross found Piotr Zielinski. The Napoli man stayed calm, smashing his volley past Gianluigi Donnarumma to give Poland a lead at the break.
The second half was changed by Federico Chiesa. Fiorentina's winger came on as a sub and brought with him an instant impact. His direct style gave the Azzurri real dynamism and won a penalty after Jakob Blaszczykowski challenged clumsily. A poor game all round for Jorginho, Chelsea's midfielder did well to stay calm and slot home the spot kick.
Key Talking Point
With the arena no more than half full, there was a jittery atmosphere over Italy's new dawn. Missing a World Cup for the first time in sixty years, the home side were very much in need of an early goal to settle nerves.
There was almost one, but not at the end they had hoped. Italy's sloppy position allowed Lewandowski to lay in Zielinski for a one-on-one chance. However, nineteen year old goalkeeper Donnarumma made himself big to pull off a sensational save.
Italy are so poor. theres a reason they didnt go to the world cup. probably the weakest italian side of all time— أحمد 🎃 (@psychedelicnoel) September 7, 2018
As previously stated, the Poland goal was down to poor positioning. Unsure of their roles in this formation, the Azzurri's lack of confidence to spread wide was preyed upon by Bialo-czerwoni. Playing through the central areas for too often, Poland swarmed around Italy's midfield, forcing multiple ball recoveries.
Although they did improve in the second half, Italy's goal came from a penalty. A lack of cut-and-thrust up top was evident as both Mario Balotelli, and his replacement in Andrea Belotti, barely managed to touch the ball at all.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma (7); Zappacosta (5), Bonucci (6), Chiellini (6), Biraghi (5); Gagliardini (6), Jorginho (5), Pellegrini (5); Bernardeschi (6), Balotelli (5), Insigne (7)
Substitutes: Bonaventura (8), Belotti (5), Chiesa (8*)
Star Man - Federico Chiesa
Completely changing the game, Chiesa's introduction gave the Azzurri a real impetus going forward for the first time in the match.
Winning the penalty, his burst of pace caught Poland's defence off guard, as Blaszczykowski's ill-timed challenge gave the struggling Italian's a much needed lifeline. Without his introduction, it is likely the home side would've walked away with nothing.
Worst Player - Jorginho
It could be suggested that giving Jorginho this title when he scored Italy's equaliser is harsh. However, the penalty finish was about all he did right. Losing the ball repeatedly in midfield, his performance in the first 45 was abysmal.
Jorginho is not for this bunch of Italian players. He needs Verrati playing alongside him. They're not giving him any passing outlet. Mancini needs to work on that if he intends to continue using Jorginho, whose mistake led to the lone goal for Poland.— Sarrismo™ (@Blue_Footy) September 7, 2018
Overplaying for Poland's goal, it seemed that Bialo-czerwoni deliberately doubled up on Jorginho. With his central partners doing little to help him, the Chelsea man would've been thankful for Giancomo Bonaventrura's second half introduction
Balotelli and Lorenzo Pellegrini were also very poor. The former was pretty much a non factor throughput, although it could be argued the lack of ball time he saw didn't help. The latter was subbed at half-time, as he offered nothing and was constantly bullied by Poland's midfield.
Staring XI (4-5-1): Fabianski (7): Bereszynski (7), Bednarek (7), Glik (7), Reca (7); Blaszczykowski (6), Krychowiak (7), Klich (6), Kurzawa (7), Zielinski (8); Lewandowski (8*)
Substitutes: Szymanski (6), Linetty (6), Pietrzak (5)
Star Man - Robert Lewandowski
Putting on an absolute clinic, the Bayern Munich forward showed all that watched how to play the lone striker role. His assist for the goal was fantastic, and he also played Zielinski in early on for a chance that the midfielder should've scored.
Dominating two elite centre backs in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, the big Pole pushed Azzurri's defence back. With this, he allowed his teammates to flood the central three of Italy, which caused multiple turnovers throughout the whole 90.
Worst Player - Jakob Blaszczykowski
Booked after only fifteen minutes, the midfielder had a poor one. Creating little, his effect on this game can only be remembered as completely negative.
Lucky not to receive a second yellow, his stupid tackle on Federico Chiesa saw the Azzurri awarded a penalty. The decision to lunge into a challenge when his team had dealt with Italy's attacks so easily was completely boneheaded.
Italy travel to Portugal next, as they face the European champions in Lisbon. If they repeat a performance like this on Monday, Cristiano Ronaldo could well have a field day.
Poland take a rest from the UEFA Nations League, with a friendly match against the Republic of Ireland pencilled in on the schedule. After their opponents were smashed 4-1 by Wales last time out, Bialo-czerwoni should be upbeat about the chances of victory.