Italy kicked off their European U21 Championship campaign with a 1-0 victory over England at the Broomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel.
An 80th-minute free-kick from Lorenzo Insigne was enough to ensure Italy lead Group A after the opening game.
In the 48th minute, England’s Craig Dawson had scrambled the ball over the line but the goal was disallowed for a Stephen Caulker push in the build-up.
It was the Italians who started the stronger of the teams by creating opportunities, although they didn’t test goalkeeper Jack Butland.
In the 13th minute a mix-up between Butland and team-mate Nathaniel Clyne almost gave Italy a simple tap-in but the Southampton full-back did well to prevent the goal.
It was Insigne who had the first real chance of the game, in the 23rd minute, when a well-worked passing move saw him in a goalscoring opportunity. Butland did enough to prevent the Napoli winger from scoring.
In the 38th minute, a clear penalty claim from Alessandro Florenzi was dismissed by referee Anthony Gautier after going down under the tackle of England’s Jack Robinson.
Two minutes after the restart, England thought they had taken the lead when Connor Wickham chipped the ball over on-rushing Francecso Bardi, in the Italian goal, only to be ruled out for offside.
In the 49th minute, England again thought they had gone into the lead through Dawson's close-range header, but that too was dismissed by officials once it was announced around the stadium and the players were celebrating.
In the 62nd minute, a slip by Robinson allowed Florenzi to get cross the ball for Fabio Borini to head goal-bound, but was denied by a driving Butland save which resulted in a corner.
A moment of madness for the keeper followed, as he missed his clearance but was let off when the ball fell kindly at his feet to gather.
He then went to kick the ball out but was charged down by Borini, who selfishly took the shot, which went wide.
Then came the moment of magic from Italy’s Insigne in the 78th minute: a floating free-kick beat Butland at his near post to put them in front – which set up an interesting final ten minutes.
Into the third minute of injury time, captain Jordan Henderson found himself standing over the ball with a free-kick in a similar position to Insinge’s.
Approaching by the goalscorer gave Henderson a second attempt which tested Bardi, who punched the ball to safety.
England went into the game having won their last nine games and not having conceded in their last ten.
For the Italians, the U21 Championship is a tournament they have had much success in, having won it on five previous occasions.
With Israel and Norway finishing 2-2 in the other game in Group A, England must win their next fixture and avoid defeat in the other to stand any realistic chance of progressing.
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