Germany 2-2 Italy
In their penultimate test before June's finals there was no separating two of the contenders in this Paderborn friendly.
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• Germany begin well but fail to make the breakthrough
• Marcello Trotta heads in perfectly from a Domenico Berardi free-kick
• Leonardo Bittencourt restores parity with an opportunistic strike
• Substitute Simone Verdi's shot re-establishes the Italian advantage
• Moritz Leitner supplies a second equaliser from the spot after an Alessio Romagnoli foul
If Germany Under-21 coach Horst Hrubesch's pre-announced move to leave out big names like Emre Can, Robin Knoche or Max Meyer for tonight's friendly against Italy was a gamble, it hardly backfired as his team more than held their own in a 2-2 draw in Paderborn.
Certainly Luigi Di Biagio's Italy immediately had problems with the fast and agile attacking play of Hrubesch's side in what was both countries' penultimate warm-up match before this summer's final tournament. Crucially, though, Germany failed to score when on top and the Azzurrini grew into the game after near-misses from Amin Younes, Moritz Leitner and captain Kevin Volland.
Indeed, keeper Bernd Leno needed to be at his best to deny Stefano Sturaro when he was picked out by Domenico Berardi's left-wing cross. Ten minutes later Leno had no chance as Marcello Trotta headed Berardi's perfect free-kick, again from the left, into the right corner of the net. Italy custodian Francesco Bardi then repelled a spectacular Johannes Geis set piece to confirm the half-time lead.
After the break the visitors might have made it two as an unmarked Cristiano Biraghi blazed over. But soon there came relief for the 11,106 fans in Paderborn: when Yunus Malli's attempt from the left corner of the box was deflected skywards, the covering Bardi fatally watched the ball bounce, allowing midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt to nip in and equalise from close range.
An end-to-end contest unfolded, with Italy substitute Simone Verdi picking up possession 30 metres out, carrying the ball forward and firing unerringly into the corner of the net. The hosts did not relent, however, and were rewarded with a late penalty affter Alessio Romagnoli fouled Philipp Hofmann. Up stepped Leitner to convert to his right and secure a deserved draw.
In their last tests before the 2015 UEFA European U21 Championship in the Czech Republic – from 17–30 June – Germany play England on Monday in Middlesbrough, with Italy facing their Serbian counterparts on the same night in Benevento.
Germany: Leno; Schulz, Ginter, Orban, Kimmich; Geis, Leitner; Bittencourt, Younes, Malli; Volland.
Italy: Bardi; Zappacosta, Bianchetti, Rugani, Biraghi; Berardi, Sturaro, Crisetig, Battocchio; Trotta, Belotti.