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    Marco Verratti scores late equalizer as Italy draws 1-1 with experimental Netherlands team


    Mario Balotelli of Italy takes a shot during the international friendly soccer match Netherlands versus Italy at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    AMSTERDAM - Marco Verratti scored a 92nd minute equalizer as Italy salvaged a 1-1 draw against an experimental Netherlands team in a friendly on Wednesday.

    Jeremain Lens gave the Netherlands a deserved lead in the 33rd minute and Italy did not look capable of clawing its way back into the match until a frenetic final few minutes were capped by a close-range strike from Paris St. Germain midfielder Verratti.

    "Everyone lost the plot at the end, we gave it away," Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said, although he praised his team for its attractive, attacking football.

    Van Gaal's young side, without midfield veterans Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart, paid the price for squandering a string of good chances to make it 2-0, with substitute Dirk Kuyt scuffing a shot in the 87th minute when he was set free in front of goal by Adam Maher.

    "We should have scored the 2-0, then there wouldn't have been a problem," Arjen Robben said.

    AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, described this week by Silvio Berlusconi's brother as his family's "little black boy," had a quiet night, his only clear-cut chance coming on the half hour when he controlled a well-weighted ball from Andrea Pirlo on his chest but fired wide from the edge of the penalty area.

    Balotelli was substituted after an hour, just after smashing a ball into pitch-side advertising boards out of frustration.

    Van Gaal started with Manchester United striker Robin van Persie up front, but surrounded him with an inexperienced midfield of Jordy Clasie, Adam Maher and Kevin Strootman and debutant winger Ola John.

    Only two of the Dutch starters had more than eight caps, and Daley Blind joined John in making his debut at the Amsterdam Arena as Blind's father, assistant coach Danny, watched from the bench. Swansea City midfielder Jonathan de Guzman also debuted in the second half.

    Maher had almost broken the deadlock in the 17th minute when he rounded off a slick passing move involving Van Persie and Lens by volleying straight at Gianluigi Buffon from close range.

    Italy sat back for the first half hour but began to threaten late in the half, with right back Ignazio Abate's runs down the flank and crosses providing most of the danger.

    But it was PSV forward Lens who broke the deadlock when a blocked Maher shot fell to him and he flicked the ball over Davide Astori and volleyed home his fifth international goal as Italy's defenders appealed for handball.

    Kevin Strootman nearly doubled the Dutch lead in the 66th minute, but his long range shot drifted just wide.

    Four minutes later Lens came even closer, but Buffon pulled off a great reflex save with his right hand to keep his team in the match.

    The second half was then disrupted by a string of substitutions and only gathered pace in the final 15 minutes, when Robben shot wide, Kuyt missed the best chance of the game and Italy substitute Pablo Osvaldo of Roma twice went close before Verratti's late equalizer.


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