Italy edge Northern Ireland at Mournview Park

Northern Ireland's Ryan Brobbell with Italy's Stefano Sabelli
Northern Ireland's Ryan Brobbell with Italy's Stefano Sabelli

Northern Ireland Under-21s were narrowly beaten 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.

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 in.

Northern Ireland were close to responding in kind three minutes later but QPR’s Jamie Sendles-White steered Luke Conlan’s delivery wide.

It looked set to finish a one-goal game until Trotta got on the end of Jacopo Dezi’s pass.