Italy let a two-goal lead slide away to the Republic of Ireland in Monday afternoon’s European Under-21 Championship qualifying match.
The Azzurrini went into the game at The Showgrounds in Sligo top of their qualification group with a 100 per cent record, having won all previous five matches played. Three points in Ireland would have secured qualification to next summer’s competition with two rounds of action to spare.
Ciro Ferrara’s boys looked on course to achieve that as they took an early lead in this Group 7 encounter, thanks to an own goal in the third minute by centre-back Shane Duffy. This advantage was then doubled 10 minutes into the second half through Ciro Immobile’s second ever goal for his country at this level.
However, a spirited fight-back from the home side saw them pull the score back to 2-2 inside four minutes of second-half play, when a Robbie Brady converted penalty on 67 was followed up on 71 by Greg Cunningham’s equalising free-kick.
As Italy pushed forward in search of a third goal in the closing stages, Pescara’s Marco Verratti was sent off for a poor tackle on Niall Canavan.
Rep of Ireland 2-2 Italy
Scorers: Duffy OG 3 (It), Immobile 56 (It), Brady 67 (Ir), Cunningham 71 (Ir)
Sent off: Verratti 90 (It)
Rep of Ireland: McLoughlin (McCarey 59); Egan, Duffy, Canavan, Cunningham; White, Towell, O'Kane; Murphy (Collins 89), Hendrick, Brady
Italy: Bardi; Santon, Capuano, Caldirola, Crescenzi; Florenzi, Marrone, Verratti, Insigne; Destro [Paloschi 73 (Romagnoli 90)], Immobile (El Sharaawy 85)
Ref: Eli Hacmon (Israel)