Having controlled the first half, England were made to pay for not turning their dominance into a lead as a resurgent Italy came back to claim the win – leaving the 14-year wait for an English victory on Italian soil still in tact.
The hosts, managed by former Rangers left-back Paolo Vanoli, included Torino striker Valerio Trani – scorer of the Azzurri’s goal when the sides met at U17 level in March – up front.
Goalkeeper Alex Meret, Federico Dimarco, Gianfilippo Felicioli, Ivan Francesco De Santis and captain Simone Minelli were also included in a strong line-up for the Azzurrini.
Italy 2-0 England
2pm, Wednesday 24 September 2014
Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle
But Dominic Solanke, who scored the winner for the Young Lions in that 2-1 European Championship Elite Round qualifier in Czech Republic, began up top for England, with the Chelsea youngster joining Freddie Woodman and Callum Connolly as the only other starters from that day in the line-up in Caorle.
Neither side took the initiative in the opening ten minutes, with Italian skipper Minelli showing some early glimpses of his potential danger to the English backline without finding a breakthrough.
The pitch looked long, causing the ball to stick as Dewsnip’s youngsters tried to impose their quick, passing style onto the contest. The Italians, however, looked content with the slow pace early on and with every attack they did try to mount seemingly coming through Minelli down the left. They looked to find him with almost every pass – but Kyle Walker-Peters was proving more than a match for the would-be talisman.
As we reached the midway point of the half, England began to take control and find some openings. Firstly, Connor Mahoney threaded a perfectly-weighted ball through the defence for the onrushing Callum Cooke, who took a touch and struck a curling right-footed effort from the 18-yard line just wide.
Then, within a minute, Connolly failed to show the predatory instinct of his double-goal salvo in his last appearance against Holland as he fired over after controlling Walker-Peters' cross 16 yards out.
But the Young Lions were in the ascendency now, and following a foul on Cooke 30 yards out, Demetri Mitchell forced goalkeeper Meret into a fine save low to his left as they upped the pressure.
Walker-Peters then embarked on a run forwards from halfway and let rip with a shot that whizzed just wide of the post before Mahoney saw a strike saved prior to the referee’s half-time whistle.
The Young Lions wouldn't have wanted the half to end with their inferiority beginning to grow, and Italian boss Vanoli responded by reinforcing his attack at the break – introducing Torino forward Simone Edera in place of club-mate Trani.
Initially the change worked as the hosts began on the attack, and Minelli flicked the ball into the path of Dalmonte to run at goal, but as he pulled the trigger, Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry did well to get himself in the way to block the danger.
Within a minute of that, the big centre-half found himself at the other end of the field, but his header from Mitchell’s corner flew straight into Meret’s hands.
Italy were a rejuvenated side though, and pressed the Lions back until they made a breakthrough on 56 minutes. A ball was lofted forward down the right, and sub Edera beat the offside trap to race through and curl a superb looping effort over Woodman and into the top corner.
Two minutes later and it was double delight for Italy, with a through-ball finding Minelli, who produced a clinical left-footed finish from inside the box to spark wild celebrations from the 2000-strong crowd.
The Fiorentina youngster almost got himself a brace just minutes later, but Woodman stood up well to deny him from a similar position to where he scored his goal.
Head Coach Neil Dewsnip introduced Kieran Dowell and Tammy Abraham from the bench in an effort to rejuvenate his attack and they responded with Connolly running free down the left into the box, but his pull-back across the gaping goal saw both Solanke and Abraham unable to meet it.
At the other end, Walker-Peters slipped as Di Rocco picked up the ball for a free run on goal after 83 minutes, but he pulled his shot wide of the target under pressure from Fry and the on-rushing Woodman.
Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper Harry Lewis made his international debut in the final moments, replacing captain Woodman, but there was no further action to be had as the Italians claimed the win.
England (4-2-3-1): 1 Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United), 2 Kyle Waler-Peters (Tottenham Hotspur), 4 Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), 5 Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), 3 Max Lowe (Derby County); 6 Liam Walsh (Everton),8 Callum Connolly (Everton); 7 Connor Mahoney (Blackburn Rovers), 10 Callum Cooke Middlesbrough), 11 Demetri Mitchell (Manchester United); 9 Dominic Solanke (Chelsea)
Subs: 12 Tosin Adarabioyo (Manchester City) for Clarke-Salter (61), 16 Brandon Fox (Leicester City) for Mahoney (61), 14 Kieran Dowell (Everton) for Mitchell (66), 15 Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) for Cooke (66), 13 Harry Lewis (Shrewsbury Town) for Woodman (86)
Head coach: Neil Dewsnip
Italy (4-4-2): 1 Alex Meret (Udinese); 2 Diego Borghini (Empoli), 5 Francesco Ivan De Santis (AC Milan), 6 Mauro Coppolaro (Udinese), 3 Federico Dimarco (Inter); 7 Gianfilippo Felicioli (AC Milan), 4 Nicola Barella (Cagliari), 8 Albert Picchi (Empoli), 10 Simone Dalmonte (C) (Fiorentina); 9 Valerio Trani (Torino), 11 Nicola Dalmonte (Cesena)
Subs: 18 Simone Edera (Torino) on for Trani (45), 19 Mattia Vitale (Juventus) for Picchi (60), 20 Denis Di Rocco (Pescara) for Dalmonte (73), 14 Giorgio Piacentini (Inter) for De Santis (73), 16 Federico Caronte (Torino) for Borghini (73), 17 Enrico De Micheli (Inter) for Barella (86)
Subs not used: 12 Emil Audero (Juventus), 13 Filippo Ghizzardi (Parma), 15 Davide Vitturini (Pescara), 21 Alfredo Bifulco (Napoli)
Goals: Edera (56), Minelli (58)
Head coach: Paolo Vanoli
Referee: Alessandro Caso.
Watch video highlights of the game in Caorle.