The holders Italy struck an important blow ahead of this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship as substitute Raffaele Palladino scored a late winner to deny Portugal a share of the spoils at the Estádio Municipal de Águeda.
As expected, the SL Benfica full-back Nélson was handed his first Portugal start along with a goalkeeper who plays his club football in Greece, PAOK FC's Daniel Fernandes. The young custodian was soon learning what football at this level is all about as the Azzurrini began with gusto, ACF Fiorentina forward Gianpaolo Pazzini going close with a fine header. The Portuguese responded in kind three minutes later, Filipe Oliveira crossing for an unmarked Hugo Almeida who contrived to fire a glorious chance wide.
Italy suffered a setback with 14 minutes gone as another Fiorentina player, Marco Donadel, went off injured and Palladino came on. FC Porto favourite Hugo Almeida went close again soon after, and although Gianluca Curci in the visiting goal kept out a Semedo header and shot from distance from Raúl Meireles, real chances were at a premium as the first half concluded.
The Portugal coach Agostinho Oliveira brought on Varela, Diogo Valente and Ivanildo for the second half, while Claudio Gentile handed first Italy caps to Paquale Foggia and Giuseppe Scurto (72nd minute). In between those changes, Pazzini passed by two presentable opportunities to break the deadlock. Ivanildo did likewise in the 80th minute, and Portugal were made to pay as Palladino of US Livorno Calcio chipped in a superb winning goal with one minute of added time played.
Italy will return to this stadium for a Group B game against Ukraine on 26 May, by which time Portugal will have played their opening two matches of the finals.
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