Mattia Destro and Stefano Okaka put Italy in the driving seat to reach the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals, leaving Belarus with it all to do in this play-off tie.
Destro broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark when he ran on to Diego Fabbrini's measured pass and beat Aleksandr Gutor with a left-footed shot. Okaka's header doubled the lead on 61 minutes, giving Italy a healthy cushion to defend in Borisov on Tuesday.
Okaka had squandered the first chance on 13 minutes, firing wide with Gutor to beat after being played in behind by Destro. Belarus responded with Pavel Nekhaychik and Maksim Skavysh both having efforts on goal − the latter's shot from inside his own half going just over – before Destro opened the scoring.
Undeterred, Belarus threatened again shortly after the restart, Skavysh failing to connect with Vladimir Yurchenko's low pass with the goal at his mercy. However, as in the first half, the Azzurrini struck just as Belarus were in the ascendancy, Okaka heading in Ezequiel Schelotto's right-wing cross.
However, the downside to an otherwise positive night for the five-time titleholders came late on when Schelotto and captain Lorenzo De Silvestri were booked in quick succession, ruling them out of the second leg. It could have been worse but Nekhaychik's powerful free-kick in added time flashed wide of Vito Mannone's post.