Gianluca Scamacca saw his wonderful strike cancelled out by an unlucky own goal, but Sandro Tonali and Riccardo Marchizza saw red in Italy’s disappointing 1-1 opening draw with the Czech Republic.
This was the opening game of the U21 Euros, while elsewhere in the group Spain crushed Slovenia 3-0 with Roma’s Gonzalo Villar on target.
The Czechs had the first huge chance when a free kick was knocked down for Andrej Lingr, but Atalanta’s Marco Carnesecchi made a stunning reaction save from point-blank range.
Genoa striker Gianluca Scamacca forced a save at the other end, while penalty appeals were waved away for Martin Vitik’s potential handling offence.
Scamacca broke the deadlock with a wonderful goal just after the half-hour mark. It was won back in midfield by Gabriele Zappa, Patrick Cutrone made an ideal through pass to release Scamacca, who kept his cool to dribble around the goalkeeper and deposit into an empty net.
Cutrone went for goal himself, stinging the ‘keeper’s gloves at the near post, and Carnesecchi denied Ondrej Sasinka in a similar situation.
It really should’ve been 2-0, as Cutrone’s dummy let a low cross through from the right, but Scamacca drilled inches wide.
The Czech Republic had the ball in the net on 69 minutes, but fortunately Lingr had wondered just offside before his finish.
Zappa again showed impressive pressing to break into the box and the half-volley flashed inches past the far post.
The equaliser did arrive with an unlucky own goal, as Giulio Maggiore got his head to a free kick and tried to nod it over the bar, but instead it looped over into the far top corner.
Moments later Jedlicka had to readjust his position at the last second to push away a Sandro Tonali free kick, then denied Matteo Gabbia’s header on the resulting corner.
However, Milan midfielder Tonali let the tension get to him – not for the first time this season – and was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Sasinka during a touchline tussle, then appearing to stamp on him. It was entirely avoidable and he will be suspended for at least one game in the tournament.
Even down to 10, Italy came close to restoring their lead with Maggiore’s diving header from close range denied by a desperate reaction save, then Scamacca’s curler skimmed the far post.
Sala had penalty appeals in the final minute, as Rovella rolled a great ball across for Marco Sala, but the defender made a decisive tackle in the six-yard box.
Sala had a volley flash across the face of goal too, as Italy seemed to wake up again only after going a man down. They actually finished with nine man, as Marchizza received a second yellow card for a foul in midfield.
Czech Republic 1-1 Italy
Scamacca 31 (I), Maggiore og 75 (C)
Czech Republic: Jedlicka; Vitik, Chalus, Krejci; Holik (Granecny 50), Bucha, Sadilek, Sulc; Karabec (Drchal 78); Lingr, Sasinka (Janosek 89)
Italy: Carnesecchi; Del Prato, Gabbia, Marchizza; Zappa (Bellanova 73), Frattesi (Rovella 65), Tonali, Maggiore (Pobega 89), Sala; Scamacca, Cutrone (Raspadori 73)
Ref: Higler (NED)
Sent off: Tonali 84 (I), Marchizza 94 (I)