England out of Euro 2012 after penalty shoot-out defeat against Italy
England endured yet more penalty heartache as Italy progressed to the semi-finals of Euro 2012 after triumphing in a shoot-out following a goalless 120 minutes.
Roy Hodgson’s men held the advantage in the shoot-out after Riccardo Montolivo dragged his effort wide, but Ashley Young hit the crossbar and Ashley Cole had his kick saved to allow Alessandro Diamanti to win it for Italy.
The Italians had the better chances throughout the 120 minutes, but were denied by some fine saves from Joe Hart and a lack of composure in front of goal.
Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck went closest to finding a breakthrough for England during the first half.
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Daniele De Rossi’s swirling third-minute shot from outside the area thumped against the post with Joe Hart well beaten.
Hodgson named an unchanged side, keeping faith with the line-up which had overcome co-hosts Ukraine to secure top spot in Group D.
It was the first time England had fielded an unchanged side since the 2010 World Cup.
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli was recalled to the Italian starting line-up in place of Antonio Di Natale after scoring a late goal against the Republic of Ireland in the group stage.
Defender Georgio Chiellini was ruled out with a hamstring injury and replaced by Leonardo Bonucci.
Balotelli drew jeers from the England fans when his attempted volley from 35 yards trickled harmlessly through to Hart.
Italy enjoyed plenty of early possession and Riccardo Montolivo picked out the run of the overlapping Federico Balzaretti but he over-hit his cross.
England had a let-off after three minutes when Claudio Marchisio cut the ball back to De Rossi, whose swerving shot from outside the box beat Hart but struck the post and bounced to safety. England retaliated and almost scored themselves two minutes later.
Johnson started the move and then continued his run into the box to get on the end of James Milner’s low centre.
The Liverpool defender got the ball tangled up under his feet and Buffon was able to save one-handed.
England were looking threatening and Wayne Rooney, under pressure from Claudio Marchisio, headed over the bar from a teasing Johnson centre.
Hart was alert to cut out the impressive Montolivo’s reverse pass into the path of Marchisio.
Pirlo’s floated pass over the England defence was seized on by Balotelli who had a clear run at goal, but defender John Terry made good ground to block his attempted chip.
Italy started to exercise some control and another dangerous pass from Montolivo found Balotelli, but he failed to make full contact on his volley and Hart saved comfortably.
England gave a reminder that they could still pose a threat when Welbeck exchanged passes with Rooney before firing wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Hart reacted sharply to push aside a fierce drive destined for the top corner of the net from Cassano after he had been teed up by Balotelli.
Italy were now in control and the lively Balotelli kicked a post in frustration after his close range attempt was deflected wide by Lescott from a ball into the danger area from Cassano.
Rooney was not at his sharpest in the first half and his touch was again heavy when he tried to collect a pass from Scott Parker in the first minute of the second period.
Milner made good ground down the right, but his eventual low centre was behind Rooney.
De Rossi missed the best chance so far after 48 minutes when Hart had punched clear a corner.
Marchisio knocked the ball back into the box and De Rossi was completely unmarked six yards out, but he dragged his shot wide.
Hart then made a double save to deny Cassano and the follow-up effort from Balotelli, but was relieved to see Montolivo fire over from the loose ball. Balotelli held off the challenge of Terry to fire an overhead kick over the bar.
Hodgson made a double change after an hour with Welbeck and Milner making way for Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott. Carroll made his presence felt when challenging for a Walcott centre and the ball dropped down to Young whose shot was deflected wide.
Gerrard appeared to be suffering from cramp and required treatment before he could continue.
Terry was throwing his body in front of everything Italy attempted and he blocked another shot from Marchisio.
An inswinging free-kick from Gerrard was just too high to pick out the run of Rooney and sailed through to Buffon.
Italy made their first change after 78 minutes with Cassano making way for Alessandro Diamanti. A minute later Antonio Nocerino came on for De Rossi.
Hart went down to his left to ensure he was not caught out by Diamanti’s dipping effort.
Johnson blocked a close-range effort from Nocerino in the final minute while Rooney was too high with an overhead kick.
Italy thought that they had won it in the second period of extra-time, but Nocerino was offside when he headed in from close range.
Balotelli gave Italy the lead in the shoot-out, but Gerrard levelled and then Montolivo shot wide.
Rooney put England ahead, but Pirlo’s ice-cool chip made it 2-2 and then Young smashed the ball against the crossbar.
Nocerino made his kick count before Buffon plunged left to thwart Cole and put Italy on the brink of the semi-finals.
It was left to former West Ham man Diamanti to take the crucial kick for Italy and he kept his nerve to send England out of the tournament.