UEFA European U-21 Championship qualifying: Northern Ireland beaten by Italy
Last Updated: 05/03/14 6:38pm
Marcelo Trotta: Sealed the win for Italy late on
Northern Ireland Under-21s were beaten 2-0 by heavily-fancied Italy in their penultimate Euro 2015 qualifier at Mourneview Park.
Jim Magilton, continuing in charge of the side after taking over from Stephen Robinson for the first time in November's double header against the Azzurri and Cyprus, saw his side contain their higher-ranked opponents until Daniele Rugani's 59th minute header.
Marcelo Trotta, on loan at Brentford from Fulham, sealed it in the final minute.
While encouragement can surely be taken from the close nature of the result, the side's continued struggles in front of goal - they have now scored just twice in seven matches - cannot be ignored.
On a poor surface both sides were guilty of giving away early free-kicks, though neither team made significant headway as a result.
Sheffield Wednesday forward Caolan Lavery was the home side's most willing outlet in attack, and he was involved in the 26th minute when Carl Winchester forced a save from Francesco Bardi in the Italian goal.
Goalkeeper Connor Brennan earned the first booking of the match after half an hour but Northern Ireland were holding tight, reducing Federico Bernadeschi to a blocked shot moments later.
Ryan Brobbell missed the target eight minutes before the break, while Federico Viviani and Danilo Cataldi both missed for the visitors before the whistle.
Italy upped the pressure after the restart, forcing a series of corners, and opened the scoring just before the hour-mark.
Viviani's curling free-kick from the left fell perfectly for Rugani and he headed into the corner from six yards.
Northern Ireland were close to responding in kind just three minutes later but QPR's Jamie Sendles-White steered Luke Conlan's delivery wide from a great position.
It looked set to finish a one-goal game until Trotta got on the end of Jacopo Dezi's pass and sealed the win.
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying
Wed 5th Mar - Group Three
Georgia U211 - 1Lux'bourg U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Six
Romania U213 - 1Faroe Islands U21
Rep Ire U211 - 2Montenegro U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Ten
Kaz'stan U213 - 2Iceland U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Seven
Malta U211 - 2Sweden U21
Greece U212 - 1Turkey U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Nine
N Ireland U210 - 2Italy U21
Belgium U210 - 3Serbia U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Four
Austria U211 - 3Albania U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Five
Switzerland U215 - 1Liec'stein U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Two
Denmark U218 - 0Estonia U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group One
England U211 - 0Wales U21
San Marino U210 - 0Finland U21
Wed 5th Mar - Group Eight
Portugal U212 - 0Macedonia U21
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group One
|6||San Marino U21||9||4|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Two
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Three
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Four
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Five
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Six
|4||Rep of Ireland U21||7||8|
|5||Faroe Islands U21||7||1|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Seven
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Eight
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Nine
|5||N Ireland U21||7||3|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Ten
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Eleven
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Twelve
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Thirteen
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Fourteen