Giacomo Raspadori’s 68th minute strike for Italy relegated England to League B in the UEFA Nations League.
Following a scrappy opening 67 minutes littered with wasted chances from both teams, Raspadori broke the deadlock as he curled in from Leonardo Bonucci’s long ball.
Italy eventually clung on for a narrow victory which relegated England to League B amidst booes from away fans for manager – Gareth Southgate, and means a potential tricky Qualifying group for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions if they’re to qualify for UEFA Euro 2024.
England’s final group match at home to Germany on Monday (26 September) meanwhile was rendered a dead rubber as the Germans suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Hungary.
Despite missing Sandro Tonali and Ciro Immobile due to muscle injuries, Italy made the brighest start as Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca both saw shots blocked in the fourth minute by Nick Pope.
Scamacca then dragged his shot wide of the bottom left-corner in the sixth minute as the hosts continued to assert authority, whilst England struggled to create much quality in the first half-hour except for Harry Maguire’s 11th minute header saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Following a period of scrappy defending at opposite ends, Pope was once again called into action as he saved Federico Dimarco’s 30th minute corner.
Jude Bellingham wasted a 36th minute chance as he rifled in a half-volley shot from a cleared corner but Donnarumma was alert to save his shot comfortably.
England eventually managed to show more aggression as the game opened up on the stroke of half-time, with Harry Kane blasting over the top right corner following a solo counter-attack as neither team broke the deadlock before the break.
Three minutes after the restart, Bonucci was booked for fouling Raheem Sterling just outside of the box, with Reece James blasting the resulting free-kick over the bar as England began on the front-foot.
Kane then saw his shot blocked by Bonucci in the 50th minute, only to then be fouled by Rafael Toloi during the consequential corner, yet referee – Jesus Gil Manzano refused to award a penalty kick as Kane was forced off the pitch for a few minutes for treatment.
Eric Dier then fired over with back-to-goal from Jude Bellingham’s headed pass from a 60th minute corner.
England were eventually punished for their wasted chances in the 68th minute as Bonucci unleashed a direct long ball up the pitch, finding Raspadori as he entered the box and the Italian swiveled his way into space to curl into the right corner.
Southgate promptly made changes as Kyle Walker and Bukayo Saka were substituted for Luke Shaw and Jack Grealish, which sparked a reaction as Dier and Kane both saw chances denied by Italy’s defence.
Manolo Gabbiadini went close to doubling Italy’s lead in the 85th minute but his shot was denied by the reflexes of Pope.
Italy in the end managed to hang on to clinch victory and preserve their League A status, in turn setting up a blockbuster meeting against Hungary in Budapest to determine the group winners on Monday.
England meanwhile will host Germany in a dead rubber clash, with both ex World Cup winners having nothing to play for, due to the Three Lions’ relegation and Germany not being able to qualify for the League A Finals.
Italy: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Rafael Toloi, Leonardo Bonucci, Francesco Acerbi, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Nicolo Barella (Pobega 63′), Jorginho (Emerson 89′), Bryan Cristante, Federico Dimarco (Frattesi 89′), Giacomo Raspadori (Gabbiadini 81′), Gianluca Scamacca (Gnonto 63′)
Substitutes: Luiz Felipe, Tommaso Pobega, Davide Frattesi, Wilfried Gnonto, Alex Meret, Emerson Palmieri, Alessio Zerbin, Vincenzo Grifo, Manolo Gabbiadini, Guglielmo Vicario, Salvatore Esposito, Alessandro Bastoni
England: Nick Pope, Reece James, Eric Dier, Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker (Shaw 72′), Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka (Grealish 71′), Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane
Substitutes: Kieran Trippier, Aaron Ramsdale, Luke Shaw, Jack Grealish, Connor Coady, James Ward-Prowse, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Jarrod Bowen, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dean Henderson, Tammy Abraham
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano (Spain)