A superb goal from Massimo Maccarone saw Italy earn a 2-1 win against England in Monday's UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group A tie in Basel..
The Empoli FC striker gathered the ball in space just outside the England penalty area, dazzled defender Chris Riggott with a deft touch and drove the ball beyond goalkeeper Paul Robinson's right hand from 18 metres for a goal which deserved to win any tie.
However, after a scintillating tie at the Saint Jakob stadium, England manager David Platt might feel a little hard done by after a 44th-minute headed goal from giant defender Zak Knight was ruled out for a push on Italy's Emiliano Bonazzoli.
Bonazzoli and Maccarone caused England problems all night with playmaker Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings. Maccarone had good shots just off target in the 26th and 27th minutes and was agonisingly close to getting on the end of Pirlo's lofted cross after 33 minutes for what would have been a certain goal.
Off the post
However, just two minutes later it was England's turn to feel the pain as a Paul Konchesky free-kick bounced back off the foot of Italy goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli's left-hand post.
Dunn saves England
England's confidence grew as the first half went on and Leeds United AFC's Alan Smith began to show some excellent touches to unnerve the Italy defence, but it was the reigning champions who went closest to opening the scoring after 43 minutes when Bonazzoli connected perfectly with Pirlo's corner only to see the ball headed off the line by England captain David Dunn.
The second half saw both sides attacking with renewed fervour and Robinson had to be off his line at lightning pace to grab the ball off Bonazzoli's feet as the striker chased a deft through-ball from midfield after 50 minutes. At the other end, Gareth Barry's ten-metre header from Konchesky's lofted free-kick was just over Pelizzoli's crossbar after 55 minutes, but Italy took the lead just three minutes later.
Maccarone on target
England failed to regain possession after Pirlo's corner was cleared, and the same player was able to thread a perfect ball through to Maccarone who held off a challenge from Riggott before jabbing the ball under the on-rushing Robinson.
Italy seemed to build in confidence after opening the scoring, but England were nonetheless back on level terms after 64 minutes. Dunn floated an exceptional ball across Italy's penalty area to find Barry waiting at the far post, and the Aston Villa FC player volleyed the ball inside Pelizzoli's right-hand post to draw his side level.
Italy could have been ahead again after 69 minutes as subsititute Vincenzo Iaquinta produced an excellent low shot across Robinson with his first touch of the game but the goalkeeper did brilliantly to push the ball wide for a corner.
'A great finish'
However, when the goal finally came for Italy after 84 minutes, it was well worth waiting for and Platt was the first to applaud Maccarone's efforts after the final whistle. "It was a great finish that beat us and also a great touch that set him up," said Platt. "We have a disappointed dressing room because we know we performed well but the message to the players is that there is no time to be diasappointed because we have another game in two days time."
Late red card
Indeed, England never gave up and they were almost handed a lifeline at the end of the game when Italy defender Daniele Bonera was shown the red card for an off-the-ball challenge on Davis as England tried to take a free-kick. "If it was a red-card offence then the England player involved should have gone as well," said Italy coach Claudio Gentile.
'The right way'
However, the anger over Bonera's dismissal could not take anything away from his side's achievements tonight. "I was delighted with the match-winning performance of Maccarone and with his team who rediscovered their team spirit and won the game the right way," concluded Gentile.