Vauxhall Under-21 International Challenge Match
Scotland 1-4 Italy
Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh
Mackay-Steven '32; Florenzi '7, Verati '55, Insigne '75, Longo '89
Scotland under-21s suffered their first defeat in over a year, in a match which saw 16-year-old Islam Feruz become the youngest ever player to wear the dark blue shirt at this level.
Goals by Allesandro Florenzi, Marco Verrati, Lorenzo Insigne and Samuele Longo - accompanied by a fine finish by Gary Mackay-Steven - led to a first defeat for Billy Stark's side side since a 1-0 loss in Belgium in March 2011.
The match against a strong Italian side was lined up to provide a tough test ahead of Scotland’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier in Bulgaria next month - and the visitors delivered.
With early bursts into the box by Scott Allan and Johnny Russell, Scotland made a promising start.
But Italy’s first venture into scoring territory reaped rewards as Florenzi sent a well-placed header passed Marc Ridgers in the opening ten minutes.
The quality in the Scotland team shone through as the pace on the flanks, in the form of Ryan Jack and Mackay-Steven, put the Italians on the back foot.
Conducted well by the athletic Allan, playing in classic number ten mode, the hosts attempted to assert their home advantage in front of almost 5,000 fans at Easter Road.
The West Brom midfielder tested keeper Simone Colombi with a swerving shot which was saved well considering its awkward flight.
Captain Paul Hanlon, playing at his home stadium, almost grabbed an equaliser, when his shot beat Colombi, but not the post.
But the Italians lived up to expectations as they brought out excellent saves from Mark Ridgers. His stable presence at the back provided a platform for the Scots to get back in the game.
Fine wing-play by Russell produced the equaliser. He darted down the right and cut back for Dundee United team mate Mackay-Steven, who placed the ball confidently into the open net on 37 minutes.
The second half started on a less positive note as Ridgers' replacement in goal, Grant Adam, received a nasty facial injury in an accidental clash within a few minutes of the re-start.
Stark’s side were dealt a further blow as Marco Verrati intercepted a pass on the edge of the box to place coolly past Scotland's third goalkeeper of the night, Rochdale's Matthew Edwards.
An influx of replacements in the early stages of the half in the form of Rhys McCabe, Dylan McGeouch, Kenny McLean and Feruz broke up the game, but the temp remained high.
McCabe produced a fine save from Colombi, who tipped round the post, while Chelsea striker Feruz impressed the crowd with his pace, flicks and turns.
But it was Italy who added to their advantage with an expertly curled free-kick by Lorenzo Insigne with 15 minutes to go.
Feruz again displayed the talent that has attracted wide-spread attention, as he stepped inside to hit a low shot, which Colombi parried.
Italy went 4-1 up in the latter stages when Inter Milan forward Samuele Longo finished ruthlessly.
Scotland: Ridgers (Adam 46, Edwards 48), Jack (Toshney 80), Hanlon (Cpt) (Shinnie 80), Wilson, Perry, Kelly (McCabe 46), Russell (McGeouch 46), Wotherspoon (Palmer 76), MacDonald (Feruz 61), Allan (McLean 65), Mackay-Steven (Armstrong 76).
Subs: All used.
Italy: Colombi, Donati, Crescenzi, Rossi, Capuano, Caldirola, Sansone, Florenzi, Immobile, Verratti, Insigne.
Subs: Pinsoglio, De Sciglio, Antei, Crimi, Viviani, De Luca, Forestieri, Longo.
Referee: Michael Oliver (England)