Alberto Aquilani
Italy's Aquilani celebrates with his team mate De Rossi after scoring a second goal against Spain during their international friendly match in Bari. REUTERS

Liverpool's Alberto Aquilani hit a late winner as Italy clinched a memorable 2-1 victory over world champions Spain in Bari on Wednesday.

Italy were the better side before the break, with Antonio Cassano orchestrating proceedings from the centre of the park.

The home side belied their dismal showing in last summer's World Cup and took the lead after just 11 minutes. Domenico Criscito's through-ball sent Riccardo Montolivo clear behind the Spanish defence before chipping Casillas from a difficult angle.

With Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez absent, Spain struggled to impose their usual passing fluency and were limited to long range efforts for the first half hour.

But Spain were granted a reprieve after Fernando Llorente, who replaced Fernando Torres after 14 minutes, went to ground rather theatrically inside the penalty box.

Xabi Alonso stepped up and calmly slotted away the spot kick to put Spain level before half time.

The second half was a much more balanced affair before Aquilani's deflected shot sealed victory for the home side with five minutes left on the clock.