Ciro Ferrara's Azzurrini scored two late goals to defeat their Russian counterparts 2-0 in today's friendly.
The Under-21 side left it to the final five minutes of normal time to break through in this latest test hosted by Padova.
Empoli midfielder Riccardo Saponara opened the scoring at the 85th with his angled drive to surprise the goalkeeper.
It was his debut goal for the Azzurrini on his fourth cap.
That was followed in stoppages by Cittadella hitman Manolo Gabbiadini's classic counter-attack, as Russia poured forward trying to earn a draw and were caught out by Fernando Forestieri's assist.
“It was the toughest game since I took charge of the Nazionale,” declared Ferrara.
“The result makes us happy, of course, but we have to examine the performance overall. We ran into some difficulties and need to address them.
“Russia were finding some good attacking moves and running at our defence with pace.”
Italy 2-0 Russia
Scorers: Saponara 85 (I), Gabbiadini 94 (I)
Italy U-21: Pinsoglio; Santon (Donati 46), Caldirola, Mori, Crescenzi; D'Alessandro (Saponara 66), Marrone (Soriano 46), Romizi (Faraoni 34), Misuraca; Paloschi (Gabbiadini 46), Macheda (Forestieri 69)
Russia U-21: Zabolotnyi; Dmitriev, Zhestokov, Kulesha, Cheminava; Abdulfattakh (Golban 90), Kirillov, Gatakov; Kokorin, Goshokov (Fedotov 86), Poloz (Sobolev 64)
Ref: Turpin (Fra)