Italy dominated the game with 27 attempts on goal and hit the woodwork, but lost to Poland and their European U21 Championship is now up in the air.
Both these sides had opened the group with victories on Sunday, the Azzurrini fighting back to beat Spain 3-1 and Poland defeating Belgium 3-2. Riccardo Orsolini, Claud Adjapong and Patrick Cutrone replaced Nicolò Zaniolo, Arturo Calabresi and Moise Kean. As Spain beat Belgium 2-1 earlier, Italy knew a win here would mathematically put them in the semi-finals.
The hosts dominated early on, with Orsolini, Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini curlers going close, but Krystian Bielik saw his low drive deflected wide on the counter.
Chiesa had a huge chance on 27 minutes, when Adjapong’s cross caught defenders by surprise, but he had to take a couple of touches to control, allowing Kamil Grabara to come flying out for a point-blank range save.
Rolando Mandragora really should’ve scored four minutes later, but somehow turned wide from 10 yards relatively unmarked on a low Chiesa assist.
The chances kept coming, but Gianluca Mancini and Nicolò Barella couldn’t find the target from promising positions, so in the end those wasted opportunities proved costly.
Barella gave away an avoidable free kick and although that effort hit the wall, it turned into an assist for Bielik’s half-volley. Alex Meret got a hand to it, but only palmed it on to the inside of the post, ricocheting in.
Orsolini thought he’d equalised on the stroke of half-time with a similar move, cutting inside for a strike that bounced in off the post, but it was ruled offside.
Moise Kean came on for the second half, as Orsolini fell awkwardly and aggravated a previous shoulder injury. Italy continued to pour forward in waves, but Mandragora missed another promising chance, Pellegrini fired over from close range and Chiesa’s ferocious volley forced a desperate one-handed save from Grabara.
Federico Dimarco’s free kick split the wall, but was smothered, as it turned into a siege with Poland putting 10 men behind the ball. Lorenzo Pellegrini hit a rocket from 25 metres that smacked the near post and bounced back out.
Cutrone’s penalty appeals were waved away, but again he seemed to run into Bielik’s leg, and the Milan striker fired wide of the near post.
Nicolò Zaniolo came off the bench, but his only contribution was a yellow card for a very high and late tackle on Szymanski, which could’ve been a red. He will be suspended for the final group game against Belgium.
Italy 0-1 Poland
Bielik 39 (P)
Italy U21: Meret; Adjapong (Zaniolo 81), Mancini, Bastoni, Dimarco; Barella, Mandragora (Tonali 57), Lo Pellegrini; Orsolini (Kean 46), Cutrone, Chiesa
Poland U21: Grabara; Wieteska, Bielik, Bochniewicz; Fila, Zurkowski, Dziczek, Pestka; Jagiello (Michalak 54), Szymanski; Kownacki (Buksa 76)
Ref: Kulbakov (BLR)