By Mark Bennett at the Ruhrstadion
Giuseppe Sculli struck twice as Italy bounced back from their opening-day defeat against Belarus to claim all three points from an entertaining UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group A game against Serbia and Montenegro in Bochum.
Man-of-the-match Sculli was on target either side of the break and gave his team a well deserved win over the Serbo-Montenegrins, whose only goal came from Simon Vukcevic five minutes from time. The pre-tournament favourites are now back in with every chance of making the semi-finals.
Both coaches made three changes from the opening fixtures. Serbia and Montenegro coach Vladimir Petrovic looked to Dejan Milovanovic, Nikola Mijailovic and Simon Vukcevic in place of Dragan Stancic, Bosko Jankovic and Danko Lazovic, who is still nursing a thigh injury. With Daniele Bonera suspended, Italian coach Claudio Gentile decided to rest Matteo Brighi and Giampiero Pinzi, bringing in Cesare Bovo, Giandomenico Mesto and Daniele De Rossi.
Italy looked desperate not to make the mistake of letting Serbia and Montenegro control the early play after it cost them so dearly against Belarus. The Azzurrini constantly pushed players forward from the referee's first whistle and Petrovic's side struggled at times to match the Italians' pace.
Italy's positive approach almost paid dividends after nine minutes when Simone Del Nero headed a Marco Donadel cross towards goal, only to see his effort gathered by goalkeeper Vladimir Disljenkovic.
Alberto Gilardino was almost handed his second goal of the championship eleven minutes later. Disljenkovic and Djordje Jokic collided when trying to dispose of a Del Nero cross, but luckily for Serbia and Montenegro the goalkeeper recovered in time to cancel out the danger. Midway through the half Milos Maric tried his luck from long range at the other end but was unlucky to see his shot whistle over the bar.
Italy finally got the goal they needed to ease their nerves on the half-hour mark. Mesto, who set up Gilardino's strike against Belarus, sent a vicious cross from the right wing into the area where Sculli escaped his marker and tucked the ball past Disljenkovic.
Trailing by a goal at half-time, Petrovic took the risk of introducing Feyenoord striker Lazovic in place of Milovanovic, as well as replacing Disljenkovic with Nikola Milojevic.
Serbia and Montenegro looked the brighter of the two teams in the opening minutes of the second half, but Milojevic was soon picking the ball out of his net. De Rossi released Gilardino on 53 minutes and the Parma AC striker squared the ball for Sculli to double his account from close range.
Serbia and Montenegro continued to press but had to wait until the closing stages before Vukcevic found the back of the net from long range and although they pushed for a leveller, the Italians held on for victory to move second in the group.