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England 1 (Williams pen 38) Italy 2 (Panico 56, Tuttino 82)
A wonder goal eight minutes from time by Alessio Tuttino has left England with a lot to do as they battled for an hour with ten players following the first half sending off of full back Casey Stoney.
Fara Williams did give England the lead from the penalty spot but the result is a massive blow to their hopes of making an impact in the Euro 2009 Championships.
Star striker Kelly Smith was on the bench at the start following her recent knee injury whilst Faye White was given the nod by Hope Powell in the centre of defence, the Arsenal defender also being restored to the captaincy.
The early stages saw England take the majority of possession but without threatening the Italian goal, although Fara Williams was harshly ruled offside after a clearance had cannoned off an Italian defender and into her path in front of goal.
Indeed it was Italy who produced the first meaningful effort on goal, a stinging 25-yard strike from Giulia Domenichetti which was parried away by Rachel Brown.
England's response was immediate, a long range effort from Fara Williams which dipped inches over the bar and onto the roof of the net. Karen Carney then drilled a shot just past the post after a good run and cross by Sue Smith which the Italian defence failed to clear.
The contentious moment of the game came in the 28th minute when England were reduced to ten players. Patrizia Panico slipped a through ball to Gabbiadini and, despite minimal contact from Stoney, the Italian forward hit the ground in a heap and Stoney was shown the red card by the referee for denying a goalscoring opportunity.
England adjusted by moving Anita Asante to left back with Chapman reverting to the centre of defence and stood firm as Italy sought to press home their player advantage. The only threat came as Roberta D'Adda blazed wildly over the bar following a corner.
However against the run of play, England were given an opportunity to go in front. Carney, who had been on the periphery of the game until this point, drove into the area where she was sandwiched by Alessia Tuttino and Tatiana Zorri and a penalty was awarded. Fara Williams stepped up to confidently roll the ball into the corner of the net and England were in front.
Kelly Smith was introduced as a half time substitute and she was quickly involved in the action, winning a free kick 30 yards from goal from which Williams brought out a good diving save from Picarelli.
Another free kick, swung into the area by Carney, caused problems for Picarelli who tried to palm the ball clear and it bounced off Kelly Smith and wide of the post.
However moments later Italy were back on level terms following some sloppy defending. Tatiana Zorri clipped the ball into the England area and over the head of Chapman to an unmarked Panico, whose initial touch was not the best but she was able to hook the ball past Brown for the equaliser.
England were struggling to replicate their more assured play of the opening twenty minutes of the match and often gave away possession with loose passes, while several attacks were ended by an offside flag.
A last ditch tackle from Asante prevented Gabbiadini from getting in on goal, however the defender injured herself in making the challenge and she needed to be replaced by Rachel Unitt - England's third left back during the course of the match.
Williams was close to putting England back in front as she was picked out by Jill Scott's pass but Picarelli did well to come off her line and prevent her from scoring. A vital interception from the impressive Schiavi then denied Kelly Smith a chance as she looked poised to score from Sue Smith's low cross.
Just as England were starting to enjoy a good spell, they were hit by a stunning blow. Tuttino unleashed a powerful strike from around 30 yards which soared into the top corner, giving Brown no chance.
It could have been worse two minutes later as Italy broke quickly after a free kick was charged down. Alice Parisi played a good ball to pick out Panico but the striker sent her shot straight at Brown.
Picarelli produced another excellent save from Williams, whose 30-yard free kick was arrowing its way towards the corner of the net. England tried to press as the game entered injury time but their achilles heel of struggling to carve out chances came back to haunt them, while Italy defended strongly and the offside trap continued to frustrate England as it had done all match. Italy held out to take the points and their celebrations at the final whistle told the whole story.
England: Rachel Brown, Alex Scott, Casey Stoney, Fara Williams, Faye White, Anita Asante (sub Rachel Unitt 72mins), Karen Carney, Katie Chapman, Eniola Aluko (sub Kelly Smith 45mins), Jill Scott, Sue Smith (sub Lianne Sanderson 84mins).
Italy: Anna Maria Picarelli, Sara Gama, Roberta D'Adda, Alessia Tuttino, Elisabetta Tona, Viviana Schiavi, Giulia Domenichetti (sub Alice Parisi 52mins), Melania Gabbiadini (sub Raffaella Manieri 90mins), Patrizia Panico, Tatiana Zorri, Carolina Pini (sub Alia Guagni 76mins).
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