Italy’s Daniele De Rossi scored a late penalty to earn a 1-1 draw against Spain in their World Cup qualifier on Thursday, sparing home goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s blushes after he gifted the visitors the lead.
Buffon, making his 164th appearance, rushed out of his area as Vitolo broke clear but the 38-year-old completely mistimed his tackle, allowing the Spaniard to go round him and put the ball into an empty net in the 55th minute.
Italy, who had been completely outplayed in the Group G clash, fought back and levelled in the 82nd when Eder was fouled by Sergio Ramos and De Rossi converted the spot kick, their only shot on target in the match.
Spain forward Diego Costa was lucky not to be sent off after the break. Having already been booked in the first half, he hoofed the ball away in disgust after being flagged offside but escaped a booking and was immediately substituted.
The result, in a rough game which produced 32 fouls and eight yellow cards, left both teams with four points from two games behind Albania on six after their 2-0 win away to Liechtenstein.
Italy remain unbeaten in European and World Cup qualifying matches since 2006, a run of 52 matches, while Spain have not lost a World Cup qualifier since 1993, a total of 55 games.
Both teams have changed coach since Italy’s 2-0 win in June at Euro 2016 with Giampiero Ventura replacing Antonio Conte for Italy and Julen Lopetegui taking over for Spain in place of Vicente del Bosque.
Ventura persisted with the 3-5-2 favoured by his predecessor and handed Alessio Romanogli his debut in place of the suspended Giorgio Chiellini in defence.
Spain immediately took control, penning Italy in their own half for long periods with their trademark passing game, but created few real chances apart from two Gerard Pique headers.
Costa was involved in an early skirmish with Leonardo Bonucci and was booked just before halftime after the pair clashed again.
Spain enjoyed more than 70 percent of possession in the first half but Vitolo’s goal sparked Italy into life.
Graziano Pelle sent a towering header wide before Ramos tripped Eder in the area. Referee Felix Brych waved play on but then consulted the goal line official and awarded a penalty which veteran midfielder De Rossi emphatically converted.