Defending champions Italy were held 1-1 by the ten men of Portugal in their opening game of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Basel, Switzerland.
The Portuguese struck first in a hot-tempered Group 1 match at the Saint Jakob stadium when FC Porto's Helder Postiga fired past Ivan Pelizzoli from the edge of the penalty area on 48 minutes.
But the Italians were handed a lifeline with the sending-off of Portugal captain Jorge Ribeiro - one they grabbed with both hands to equalise through Emiliano Bonazzoli. The Parma AC striker headed Andrea Pirlo's corner beyond Sérgio Leite and into the top corner on 55 minutes.
Azzurrini miss out
Bonazzoli then passed up the chance of a winner by nodding over the crossbar, having outjumped his marker Vasco Faísca. Even more guilty was defender Matteo Ferrari who directed a free header high and wide from six metres. The Azzurrini's profligacy was not lost on their coach, Claudio Gentile, who said: "We had our chances and could have won the game through Ferrari and Bonazzoli."
And nor was that Ferrari's worst crime. In a first half in which Agostinho de Oliveira's team enjoyed the better moments, the Internazionale FC defender almost had a nightmare one - overhitting a back pass which beat his goalkeeper but also the post.
Certainly, Portugal made most of the running once Bonazzoli had seen a shot cleared off the line by Ribeiro in the first minute. "It was handball, it should have been a penalty," claimed Gentile. "We made a poor start, but after ten minutes we played the better team game and were quicker on the ball," Oliveira countered. Twice the exciting Miguel broke clear down the left and into the Italian box to no avail before he finally beat Pelizzoli with a chip that bounced back off the crossbar.
But while he and Helder Postiga continued to ask questions of an often irritable Italian defence, it was the highly-rated Massimo Maccarone who almost sent his team into a half-time lead. The Empoli FC man tricked his way past Paulo Ferreira before drawing a smart stop out of Sérgio Leite on the half-volley.
Normal service seemed to be resumed when Helder Postiga got the goal his efforts deserved from Miguel's pass - but that was reckoning without a fraying of tempers on a hot night. Thiago and Miguel of Portugal and Italy's Bonera were all booked in a fractious spell which climaxed with Ribeiro's dismissal for a high tackle on Marco Marchionni. "It was really hot out there and we weren't used to it," Pirlo said. "They passed the ball round well and gave us little room to exploit." His coach added: "We could have made better use of our numerical advantage."
Portugal nearly plunder
Still, Portuguese heads did not drop and they might even have stolen the points through the lively Cândido Costa and Helder Postiga. The latter, in particular, was unlucky with a chip that caught out Pelizzoli but sailed centimetres wide.