England Under-21s kicked off their Euro 2013 campaign with a 1-0 loss to Italy Under-21s in their Group A opener.
After a first-half stalemate which Devis Mangia's side dominated, England then had two goals disallowed early in the second half.
Italy finally made their pressure pay when Lorenzo Insigne curled a brilliant free kick past Jack Butland to consign Stuart Pearce's men to defeat and take Italy to the top of the group.
Wilfried Zaha was only fit for a place on the bench for Pearce's side so Nathan Redmond was called up to take his place on the right wing. Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne overcame a knee injury to start for the Italians, joining Liverpool striker Fabio Borini in attack.
The first real chance of the game came after 10 minutes when Ciro Immobile flashed a shot a yard wide of Jack Butland's far post following a strong run up the right flank.
A moment of miscommunication between Nathaniel Clyne and Butland almost handed the Italians another chance minutes later but the Southampton defender recovered in time to deny Insigne an easy finish.
A poor first touch from Jonjo Shelvey, following a clever pass from the impressive Nathan Redmond, wasted one of England's best moments of the half, just when they looked like they might be able to hurt Italy on the counterattack.
Insigne was also guilty of wasting chances, missing the target on a couple of occasions after some fine build-up play from Mangia's side.
England finished the half with some forward momentum but the Italians will feel they should have been ahead after the referee dismissed their strong claims for a penalty when Jack Robinson clumsily brought down Alessandro Florenzi inside the area.
Connor Wickham thought he had given Pearce's side the lead minutes after the break until the referee's assistant correctly flagged him offside after a delicate finish.
But seconds later there was more controversy when Craig Dawson headed the ball in from an untidy corner kick but referee Antony Gautier saw an infringement in the build-up and England were denied another goal.
Borini then tested Butland with a header as Italy turned the screw going forward, before the Stoke goalkeeper almost handed the opposition a goal with two wild mistakes within the space of a minute.
Verrati and Insigne came close when they combined for a well worked free kick routine in the 70th minute but the latter failed to connect with the ball with his awkward volley inside the area.
But Insigne made up from it from another free kick soon after. This time he went for it alone and succeeded in bending the ball up and over the wall and past the hapless Butland from just outside the penalty box.
The Azzurrini then took the sting out of the game and comfortably saw out the final few minutes without too much hassle, despite a late Henderson free kick which Bardi palmed wide low to his right, to claim all three points, taking them to the top of Group A.