Italy celebrated a winning start to their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ Group C campaign thanks to a stunning long-range effort from Alessia Tuttino, the midfielder handing the Azzurre a 2-1 win against an England side reduced to ten players after merely 28 minutes.
Casey Stoney was the player dismissed before a goal had been scored, yet it was her team-mates who took the lead on 38 minutes, Fara Williams converting from the spot. Italy drew level through their captain, Patrizia Panico, eleven minutes after the restart and they grabbed all three points when Tuttino speared the ball past Rachel Brown with eight minutes left.
England manager Hope Powell had elected to start Eniola Aluko up front in place of the dangerous Kelly Smith – still not 100 per cent free of knee problems – but her well-drilled troops quickly impressed with some delicate touches. However, the first chance of the match fell to Italy on the break, with Melania Gabbiadini freeing Giulia Domenichetti on the right and the No7 forcing Brown into a save.
The response from England was immediate, Williams hitting the roof of the net from distance before Karen Carney screwed a shot narrowly beyond a post. Italy remained a threat on the counterattack and soon found themselves a player up from another quickly-sprung attack. This time, Gabbiadini was played in by Panico and left-back Stoney saw red after bringing her down on the edge of the area.
Oddly, the sending off seemed to interfere just as much with Italy's plans as England's, with Pietro Ghedin's charges now invited to come forward as their opponents waited for openings. One duly arrived just ten minutes later, in fact, Carney advancing goalwards courtesy of some delicious close control and winning a penalty after being bundled to the ground. Williams stepped up to fire low to Anna Maria Picarelli's left.
Aluko then shot wide, but that was her last meaningful contribution as Smith was introduced after the break, though it was Williams who next drew Picarelli into the match with a swerving free-kick. Just as England looked to be strengthening their grip, however, Panico artfully turned the ball past Brown after a cross from the left had evaded Williams.
England attempted to regain the initiative with Williams testing Picarelli from close range as the clock ticked down. But it was a shot from much further out that decided the encounter, Tuttino arrowing the ball into the top corner from 25 metres to give Italy the perfect start.