UEFA EURO 2012 runners-up Italy are still searching for a first ever win in Bulgaria after being held to a 2-2 draw in Sofia.
Having lost twice and drawn twice on their previous visits to Bulgaria, the Azzurri looked set for more of the same when they went behind to Stanislav Manolev's goal on the half-hour. They were in front before the break, though, Pablo Osvaldo scoring twice, but Georgi Milanov's second-half equaliser meant both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils in their FIFA World Cup qualifying Group B opener.
The hosts were good value for a point, Manolev's low shot leaving Gianluigi Buffon with no chance to give them the lead. Cesare Prandelli's side hit back almost immediately, however, and were ahead inside ten minutes. Osvaldo latched on to Claudio Marchiso's header and slotted past Nikolay Mihaylov to equalise, before rising to meet Emanuele Giaccherini's cross via a deflection off Ivan Ivanov to complete the turnaround.
Luboslav Penev's side were not shy about seeking an equaliser but did not take the initiative until Ilian Micanski's 61st-minute introduction. Scorer of the winning goal against the Netherlands and Cyrprus in friendlies earlier this year, Micanski once again proved the joker in the pack. It was the 1. FC Kaiserslautern striker who broke down the right and found Milanov, who finished with aplomb.
Manolev and Mattia Destro missed late chances to win it for their respective sides, as honours ended even. Italy host Malta on Tuesday, while Bulgaria welcome Armenia to Sofia.