Gdansk (Poland), Jun 10 (IANS/RIA Novosti): Two goals in three minutes saw Spain and Italy share the points in their Euro 2012 opener here Sunday.
Antonio Di Natale broke the deadlock three minutes after replacing Mario Balotelli up front, latching onto a perfectly weighted Andrea Pirlo through pass and side-footing around Iker Casillas in the Spanish goal.
It took the reigning champions just three minutes to respond, with David Silva's threaded pass setting up Cesc Fabregas, who blasted the ball low into the corner.
The result gives a chance to Ireland and Croatia, who clash later Sunday, to take the lead in Group C.
Spain next face Ireland on Thursday, while the Italians play Croatia.
The Italians will welcome a point against the tournament favourites, with their squad demoralised after the country's match-fixing scandal and their preparations hindered by last week's earthquake.
Fabregas was denied a clear shot on goal on nine minutes as Daniele De Rossi, playing as a makeshift centreback, got a toe in at the last second.
Spain broke dangerously after Balotelli gave away possession, putting together a flowing move that ended with a tame low effort from David Silva.
At the other end, Casillas dived to his right to deflect away a Pirlo free kick.
Pirlo then played in Antonio Cassano, but Casillas tipped away the AC Milan striker's low strike.
On the half-hour mark, defender Giorgio Chiellini stretched to head away an Iniesta cross that was bound for an unmarked Xavi at the back post, before Iniesta struck straight at Gianluigi Buffon from the resulting corner.
Italy then went close through Cassano, whose stinging drive Casillas could only parry, but luckily for Spain, the ball rebounded just beyond Balotelli's reach.
The Italians nearly opened the scoring in spectacular style on 36 minutes, with Claudio Marchisio connecting sweetly with a cross from the left, but Casillas was in the right place to catch.
Leonardo Bonucci tracked Fabregas' run into the box on 42 minutes and was on hand to block his close-range shot.
Iniesta cushioned a through ball from Xavi just after, but hit a snap-volley that flew just over.
Casillas reacted sharply to turn away a glancing header from Thiago Motta, the Italians' best chance falling at the close of the half.
Fabregas turned and fired from the edge of the box on 47 minutes, saved two-handed by Buffon, before Xavi hit just wide from distance.
Iniesta rampaged into the box down the left and flashed a shot across goal that Buffon tipped clear.
Balotelli squandered a golden chance on 52 minutes, dispossessing Sergio Ramos near the right touchline before waltzing toward goal with mystifying complacency, allowing the defender time to get back and atone for the mistake with a tackle.
After Di Natale's goal, Spain immediately pinned their opponents back, with intricate buildup play ending with Iniesta slamming a left-foot drive at Buffon.
The Italians were compromised in the very next attack as Fabregas restored parity.
Jordi Alba volleyed a Jesus Navas cross just wide on 73 minutes.
Fernando Torres tried to go around Buffon soon after the Chelsea forward came on for Fabregas, but the goalkeeper shepharded him out and cleared the danger.
At the other end, Di Natale hit a ball over the top first time, but couldn't keep it down.
Xavi struck an 80th-minute free kick into the wall as Spain looked to snatch the win.
Torres broke clear five minutes before time and chipped Buffon, who had rushed out too hastily, but put too much power behind it and it sailed over.
Italy had a good late chance, spurned by Marchisio after a nice one-two with Motta.
Spain: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, David Silva (Jesus Navas, 64).
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Christian Maggio, Thiago Motta (Antonio Nocerino, 90), Claudio Marchisio, Emanuele Giaccherini, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli (Antonio Di Natale, 56), Antonio Cassano (Sebastian Giovinco, 90).