Italy lost 1-0 in Serbia, making their European Under-21 Championship qualification considerably more complicated.
Just two points separated them going in to Gornji Milanovac and Gigi Di Biagio’s men were on a run of three consecutive victories, but Serbia have now leapfrogged them into second place. Belgium lead with 13 points from six games, while Serbia have 10 from five and Italy nine from five.
Federico Viviani’s angled drive flashed just wide of the far post and moments later Antonio Rozzi sprung the offside trap to lob the on-rushing goalkeeper, but an acrobatic Uros Spajic goalline clearance kept Serbia on level terms.
Goran Causic blocked the resulting corner with his arm, but the referee waved away Italy’s penalty appeals.
A long-range Viviani free kick whistled past the upright, but Francesco Bardi made his first save to smother a Darko Brasanac snapshot on 27 minutes and Lazar Markovic smashed his effort wide.
Markovic burst into the box and held off Davide Zappacosta, but a combination of Bardi and the post kept his shot out from point-blank range.
There was tension just before half-time when Bardi flapped at a cross, but Milos Jojic was unable to make the most of the opportunity.
After the restart Bardi needed a splendid reaction save on Aleksansar Mitrovic at the near post after fine build-up play from Serbia, while Viviani’s effort was well held and Marko Dmitrovic had to rush outside his own penalty area to nod clear from Rozzi.
Serbia took the lead on the hour mark with a bizarre goal. Goran Causic floated a cross into the box from the left and Mitrovic stretched for it without getting a touch. This wrong-footed Bardi, who saw the ball bounce over him and under the bar.
Crotone forward Stefano Pettinari made his Under-21 debut and as the Azzurrini pushed forward, they left spaces at the back with Matteo Bianchetti crucial to intercept a dangerous counter-attack.
In the closing stages Markovic and Pettinari were both booked for a scuffle, but it was the Serbian’s second of the match.
Even with 10 men, Causic threatened a second goal for Serbia with his free kick stinging Bardi’s palms. Deep into stoppages Fedato sprung the offside trap, but his first touch let him down.
Serbia 1-0 Italy
Scorers: Causic 60 (S)
Serbia U21: Dmitrovic; Petkovic, Spajic, Nastasic, Petrovic; Brasanac, Causic; Jojic (Zivkovic 85), Djuricic (Stojkovic 91), L Markovic; Mitrovic
Italy U21: Bardi; Zappacosta, Bianchetti, Antei, Biraghi; Baselli, Viviani; Molina (Pettinari 71), Rozzi (Fossati 56), Battocchio (Fedato 84); Belotti
Ref: Ozkahya (TUR)
Sent off: Markovic 87 (S)