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England Draw Level With the Azzurri Amidst VAR Controversy

England Italy
Italy's Federico Chiesa (left) and England's John Stones battle for the ball (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

England were denied a second successive friendly victory by a late Italy penalty awarded by the video assistant referee (VAR) at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate’s side were good value for a lead given to them by Jamie Vardy’s powerful 26th-minute finish, fired past keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma after Jesse Lingard’s quickly taken free-kick caught the visitors out.

England were fortunate to escape some defensive lapses, especially when Ciro Immobile headed over in the first half – but looked to be closing out a confidence-boosting win until a late intervention from VAR.

Referee Deniz Aytekin consulted VAR after Burnley defender James Tarkowski tangled with Federico Chiesa, and decided the England debutant had stepped on the Italian’s foot, allowing Lorenzo Insigne to beat Jack Butland with just three minutes left.

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England’s players complained long and hard about the award of the spot-kick – but VAR looked to have got this one right, much to Southgate’s frustration.

England will feel an understandable sense of disappointed and frustration that Italy’s late penalty denied them a win they deserved and the chance to record back-to-back victories in these two friendlies – their last before naming a provisional World Cup squad on 14 May.

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However, Southgate can take plenty away from two fixtures against countries who are in reduced circumstances and will not figure at the World Cup, but who always present a serious challenge.

England looked lively and creative in attack, although these two games were evidence of how much they will rely on Harry Kane. Southgate will be desperate the Tottenham man recovers fully and on schedule from his knee injury.

They looked progressive and pleasing on the eye going forward, albeit in need of Kane’s killer instinct, and have the weapons pose a threat this summer in Russia.

England are, however, still very much a work in progress.

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There were still uncertain moments at the back, especially when John Stones conceded possession early on, but fortunately Ciro Immobile had a nightmare evening.

It was a shame Burnley defender Tarkowski conceded the penalty late on because he had made an assured debut and had not looked out of place. His look of despair as referee Deniz Aytekin awarded the spot-kick was understandable.

A frustrating outcome for England – but enough for Southgate to build on.

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