Italy missed a Patrick Cutrone penalty, but completed a comeback to beat Russia in a 3-2 thriller. “We lost our shape,” complained Gigi Di Biagio.
The day after the senior squad failed to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958, losing the play-off 1-0 on aggregate to Sweden, the Azzurrini took to the field in a friendly.
Gigi Di Biagio’s side had started strong, as Milan striker Patrick Cutrone saw his angled drive hit the upright before Daniele Verde scored a bizarre goal directly from the corner flag, thanks also to a howler from the Russian ‘keeper.
Italy were too wasteful and were made to pay when Russia equalised in first half stoppages, Rasskazov taking advantage of a defensive distraction.
The visitors gained momentum in the second half, with Chernov’s header rattling the woodwork and Bakaev beating Simone Scuffet with a sensational curler.
Cutrone was involved again for the equaliser, his cross met by a marvellous Vittorio Parigini volley into the top corner from 15 yards.
However, when the Milan centre-forward had the chance to win it late on, he saw his penalty well saved by Leshchuk.
It still wasn’t over, as the Azzurrini completed the comeback with Juventus-owned Riccardo Orsolini, currently at Atalanta, meeting Parigini’s assist to fire home the winner in stoppages.
It’s a fourth consecutive victory for the Italy Under-21 side.
“It’s always pleasing to win games, but even more so to play them well. We had a good first half and then lost our way, so even though we got it back on track, these are things that should not happen,” Di Biagio told Rai Sport.
“At the start we passed it well, controlled the game and had the right tempo, the right passing channels, but then we lost our shape. We’ll take the result, but the performance has got to improve.”
Di Biagio has been tipped to be caretaker Coach of the senior Italy squad after their failure to reach the World Cup.
“Aside from what happened, we have to look at developing these lads and helping them to grow.”
Italy 3-2 Russia
Verde 12 (I), Rasskazov 45 (R), Bakaev 71 (R), Parigini 77 (I), Orsolini 93 (I)
Saved pen: Cutrone 84 (I)