All square in the opening game of The FA U17 International Tournament.
Leali (OG) 64
The FA International Tournament
7pm, Wednesday 26 August
The Pirelli Stadium, Burton Albion FC
England played out a 1-1 draw with Italy in their first match of this season's FA International U17 Tournament, and a point was the very least they deserved from a match they dominated for large spells.
Simone Magnaghi gave the Italians the lead after 27 minutes, but England equalised with just over a quarter of an hour remaining, courtesy of an own goal from Italian 'keeper, Nicola Leali.
The Italians were composed in possession and resolute in defence, with Leali looking particularly impressive - albeit with an own goal against his name - though it was England who created the clearer and more frequent chances.
John Peacock's side produced an assured performance and they will head into Friday's match against Turkey confident they can better tonight's result.
Chuks Aneke had the first shot of the match as the hosts started brightly. They penned the visitors in their own half and Josh McEachran's clipped ball forward after just two minutes fell to Aneke, but he could only drag his effort wide.
The England midfield took control of the game early on with McEachran, Aneke, Ravel Morrison and George Thorne enjoying a lot of the ball in the opening stages. Skipper Luke Garbutt and Bruno Pilatos offered width and support from the full back positions and England's dominance was personified by the fact that Sam Johnstone's first touch of the ball came in the 19th minute. Furthermore, Italy's solitary counter attack in the first ten minutes was mopped up well by Louis Laing, who outpaced Magnaghi to clear the danger.
England will feel they should have taken the lead just after the 20 minute mark, but they found Leali in inspired form for the first time on the night. First, he saved well from William Keane after the Manchester United man had benefited from a loose Dario Cascione pass. Barely a minute later, Benik Afobe climbed highest to meet a McEachran corner, but Leali parried from point blank range and then clawed away Afobe's immediate rebound.
Against the run of play, Italy took the lead just four minutes later. They built a rare attack down the right and Andrea Romano's cross was swept home from 12 yards by Magnaghi.
Not to be perturbed, the hosts continued to press. McEachran was again the architect of a fine England move and his through ball found Afobe on the right of the Italy box but the front man was stretching and shot over.
England began the second period as they finished the first, forcing Italy on the back foot, but it was the Italians who had the first shot of the half. Nicola Quaggiotto found some space on the right wing and he centred for the goalscorer who was arriving at the near post, but Magnaghi's volleyed effort whizzed narrowly wide of the target.
The Young Lions then galloped down the other end and came within the width of a post from equalising. Jake Bidwell, who impressed after coming off the bench, released Afobe down the left and his cut back was met by the on-rushing Morrison, but his side footed effort thumped against the woodwork with Leali, for once, beaten.
On 52 minutes, England's front two combined from a Morrison corner, however Afobe's knock down was prodded over by Keane. An equaliser would certainly have been merited. It came in the 64th minute.
A goalmouth scramble produced another save from Leali, though the subsequent injury he suffered might have hindered him when he came to collect McEachran's corner. Under pressure from Keane, Leali could only watch despairingly as his punched clearance spun behind him and into the net.
With parity restored, England went for the juggular and a minute later Pilatos fired a shot wide.
It was then the goalkeepers' turn to trade saves, as Johnstone lept to collect the ball from the feet of Romano before Leali proved Afobe's nemesis once more, foiling the England no.9 when he was through one-on-one.
Substitutes Jake Fowler and Saido Berahino shot over and wide respectively in the final minute and they were the final chances of an enjoyable encounter at the Pirelli Stadium.
In the day's other game, Portugal beat Turkey 2-0 at Northampton Town.
1 Sam Johnstone, 2 Bruno Pilatos, 3 Luke Garbutt (C), 4 George Thorne (12 Liam Moore, 80), 5 Louis Laing, 6 Nathaniel Chalobah, 7 William Keane, 8 Chuks Aneke (14 Jake Bidwell, 41), 9 Benik Afobe, 10 Ravel Morrison (17 Saido Berahino, 58), 11 Josh McEachran (18 Jake Fowler, 80)
Substitutes not used
13 Jack Butland, 15 Tom Thorpe, 16 Josh Rees
1 Nicola Leali, 2 Paolo Dametto (13 Andrea Montresor, 56), 3 Dario Cascione, 4 Lacopo Galimberti, 5 Matteo Solini, 6 Simone Pecorini, 7 Nicola Quaggiotto (15 Giovanni Cristofari, 73), 8 Andrea Romano 9 Simone Magnaghi, 10 Giuseppe Iuliano, 11 Antonio Gammone
Substitutes not used
12 Luca Nuziata, 14 Mattia Valoti, 16 Angelo Chiavazzo, 17 Alberto Melis, 18 Matteo Borlini