By Mark Bennett at the Ruhrstadion
Four-times champions Italy got their UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign off to the worst possible start by losing 2-1 to Belarus in Group A and having their captain sent off.
Roman Kirenkin's sixth-minute header was followed by Aleksandr Gleb's sweet second to put the unfancied Belarussians into a shock lead and although the prolific Alberto Gilardino gave them hope by halving the deficit, that quickly evaporated when his Parma AC team-mate Daniele Bonera was sent off.
Both sides began with a fiery intensity and several good tackles in the opening minutes enabled Belarus to wrestle control of the match in an obvious attempt to keep the action as far away from their goal as possible. The Italians for their part looked a little surprised by the outsiders' early commitment, with Aleksandr Gleb leading the way.
The Belarussians' quick movement and good passing in midfield gave Claudio Gentile's side good reason to be fearful - and they found themselves behind after just six minutes. Timofei Kalachev sent a corner curling into the area, where Kirenkin met the ball unchallenged by the Italian defence to head the opening goal.
After ten minutes, Yuri Puntus' side retreated slightly and appeared quite content to sit back and wait for their chances on the break. This gave Italy, winners of this competition four times since 1992, more possession in midfield. But they nonetheless failed to come up with anything to trouble the Belarus defence.
Gentile's players needed 36 minutes before they even created a clear-cut chance. Emiliano Moretti's cross somehow found Cristian Zaccardo in front of goal, but goalkeeper Yuri Zhevnov made a brave diving save to his left. Three minutes later as Italy pressed, Zaccardo turned provider, but Alberto Gilardino sent his header over the bar.
At the other end Belarus continued to make the most of their opportunities. Shortly before half-time Aleksandr Gleb was given enough space 22 metres from goal to unleash a shot and the VfB Stuttgart playmaker's effort left Marco Amelia floundering as it flew into the net.
Italy battled hard to come back early in the second half, but Giuseppe Sculli was unlucky when he arrived a split-second too late to meet a cross from Simone Del Nero. Their desperation showed 60 seconds later when Gilardino tumbled to ground in the area but and was promptly booked for simulation.
Gilardino showed the brighter side of his game on 58 minutes, rising to meet a cross from substitute Giandomenico Mesto to hand Italy a lifeline. But Bonera's dismissal in added time for a stray elbow on Artem Kantsavy all but confirmed a famous Belarus victory.