AMSTERDAM — Nicolo Barella headed the only goal as a dominant Italy beat the Netherlands 1-0 in their Nations League match at Johan Cruyff Arena on Monday.
The midfielder leapt between Dutch defenders Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake to head powerfully past Jasper Cillessen in first-half stoppage time.
The win sent Italy to the top of League A Group 1 as Poland beat Bosnia 2-1 in the group's other match.
Roberto Mancini made seven changes to his lineup following Friday’s 1-1 draw with Bosnia, including bringing back defender Giorgio Chiellini for his first international since a serious right knee injury a year ago.
But it was the introduction of defender Leonardo Spinazzola at left back that made a key difference. He repeatedly overlapped on the left wing to create space for Lorenzo Insigne to trouble the injury-depleted Dutch defence .
Italy pressed high up the pitch, not allowing the Netherlands time to build up from the back, and targeted Joel Veltman and Hans Hateboer on the makeshift right side of the Dutch back four.
“We lost to a very good team,” interim Dutch coach Dwight Lodeweges said. “They wanted to play the same way as us, but executed it much better.”
The pressure created chances for Nicolo Zaniolo, who sent a spectacular volley over the bar in the 17th minute, and Ciro Immobile who curled a shot just wide of Jasper Cillessen’s post two minutes later.
Inevitably, it was a cross from the left by Immobile that set up Barella’s goal just before halftime.
The only disappointing moment for Italy came when Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo, like Chiellini playing his first international since returning from a serious knee injury, limped off in the 42nd minute after a challenge by Donny van de Beek.
Lodeweges made just one change to the team that beat Poland 1-0 on Friday, dropping Steven Bergwijn, the scorer, to the bench and replacing him in the midfield with new Manchester United signing Van de Beek.
The hosts had to wait until the 32nd minute for Georginio Wijnaldum to carve out the first Dutch chance when he turned away from a defender, cut inside but shot straight at goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Italy dropped deeper after the break and gave the Netherlands more time, allowing Wijnaldum to cross for Van de Beek whose volley was tipped over the bar by Donnarumma.
The Netherlands pushed hard for an equalizer in the closing minutes, with Depay trying a spectacular volley at the far post, but Italy's defence held firm.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
The Associated Press