Nations League: Azzurri get the better of Netherlands

Vital goal
Nicolo Barella exults after putting Italy ahead. Photo: Reuters

Amsterdam: Italy returned to winning ways as Nicolo Barella's header just before half-time secured a 1-0 victory away to a below-par Netherlands in their Nations League clash at an empty Johan Cruyff Arena on Monday.

Italy showed the greater urgency and quality throughout and were full value for the win that follows Friday’s disappointing 1-1 home draw with Bosnia in which their 11-match winning run came to a surprise end.

It was a first loss for Netherlands interim manager Dwight Lodeweges in his second game in charge after replacing Ronald Koeman and he will be concerned at the limp display from his side, who rarely threatened the visitors' goal.

Italy head the League A Group 1 standings with four points from two games, followed by the Netherlands and Poland, who have three points each, and Bosnia with one.

Italy, who made seven changes after Friday’s draw, dominated the opening half and after Barella had seen his shot from the edge of the box deflected narrowly over the crossbar, Ciro Immobile was within a whisker of giving his side the lead.

The Netherlands’ only effort on target in the opening period came from Georginio Wijnaldum, who capped a strong run by shooting straight at Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from the edge of the box.

The visitors got the goal their play deserved just before half-time when Immobile's cross from the left allowed Barella to ghost in between the Netherlands centre-backs and head into the net.

Bang on target
Nicolo Barella heads home the winner. Photo: Reuters

An excellent Italian move early in the second period saw Lorenzo Insigne force an excellent diving save from Jasper Cillessen as his 25-yard shot curled towards the top corner, while at the end Donny Van de Beek forced a finger-tip save from Donnarumma, the closest the home side came to a goal.

In the other match in the pool, Poland claimed a 2-1 victory at Bosnia & Herzegovina as Kamil Glik and Kamil Grosicki netted with headers for the visitors.

Italy's Leonardo Spinazzola, right, and the Netherlands' Denzel Dumfries vie for the ball. Photo: Reuters

Haris Hajradinovic had given the home side the lead from the penalty spot.

The results: League A: Group 1: Netherlands lost to Italy 0-1; Bosnia & Herzegovina lost to Poland 1-2.

League B: Group 1: Austria lost to Romania 2-3; Northern Ireland lost to Norway 1-5.

League B: Group 2: Czech Republic lost to Scotland 1-2; Israel drew with Slovakia 1-1.

League C: Group 4: Albania lost to Lithuania 0-1; Kazakhstan lost to Belarus 1-2.