• Yordan Minev own goal gives Italy an early advantage
• Ivelin Popov and Ilian Micanski strike in quick succession to put Bulgaria ahead
• Salvatore Sirigu deputises in goal for Italy with Gianluigi Buffon down with flu
• Debutant Éder denies Ivaylo Petev a win in his first game as Bulgaria coach
• Next qualifiers: Croatia v Italy, Malta v Bulgaria (12 June)
Debutant Éder's brilliant shot on the turn earned Italy a share of the points after goals from Bulgaria's Ivelin Popov and Ilian Micanski threatened an upset in UEFA EURO 2016 Group H.
The Brazilian-born UC Sampdoria striker beat Nikolay Mihaylov with a splendid bending strike in the 84th minute, as Bulgaria's massed defence finally buckled. The game had started brightly for the visitors, Yordan Minev putting the ball into his own net under pressure, but Popov and Micanski turned the tables in a frenzied opening 20 minutes.
New Bulgaria coach Ivaylo Petev had a tough start as his side went behind in the fourth minute, left-back Minev helping Andrea Bertolacci's cross from the left into the home net on a slippery surface. It was Bulgaria's second own goal of the campaign, Nikolay Bodurov having put past his keeper when Croatia came to Sofia in October.
Bulgaria rallied quickly, though; seven minutes later, right-back Stanislav Manolev fed Popov, and the FC Kuban Krasnodar man charged into the Italy area to put a ferocious low drive pass Salvatore Sirigu – deputising for Gianluigi Buffon, withdrawn due to a bout of flu. Six minutes later Bulgaria swept down the right, PFC CSKA Moskva midfielder Georgi Milanov crossing for Micanski to head in their second.
Italy dominated therafter, the heavy pitch prompting some efforts from distance, but Bulgaria came close to making it 3-1 on 37 minutes as Popov crashed a free-kick from out on the left against the bar.
Defending in numbers, Bulgaria might have thought they would hold on after Mihaylov made a terrific save to deny Ciro Immobile in the 68th minute, Bertolacci hitting the loose ball over the bar. However, Éder came off the bench to deny them what would have been only their second competitive win against Italy.