Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Noel King recorded one of the biggest wins of his career as his depleted Irish side defeated Italy 4-2 in Casarano.
Despite a number of withdrawals as well as the promotion of top scorer Robbie Brady to the Irish senior squad, the Boys in Green fought valianty to end their Euro 2013 qualifying campaign with a win. Although Italy had already secured qualification, Azzurini head coach Devis Mangia fielded a strong side, including AC Milan first teamer Stephan El Shaarawy.
Ireland took the lead when Sean Murray was given too much space down the right. The Watford midfielder saw Italian goalkeeper Mattia Perin off his line and caught him out with a clever chip to put the visitors ahead on 23 minutes. Italy equalised through a 35th minute corner kick. El Shaarawy floated the ball in, and Luca Caldirola was allowed too much space to get up and head it into the far corner.
The Boys in Green were reduced to ten men two minutes later when Derrick Williams halted Ciro Immobile with a crunching tackle in the penalty area. Immobile stepped up to take the spot kick, but hit it down the middle at goalkeeper Aaron McCarey.
Ireland's lead was restored in the 57th minute when Conor Henderson played an excellent ball to Aaron Doran who broke free of the offside trap to calmly slot the ball into the net. A minute later, the creator turned scorer as Conor Henderson scored a stunning strike, lobbing Perin from 35 yards.
Floodlight failure in the 60th minute plunged the game into darkness, but when play resumed, Ireland kept up their momentum with Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker Aaron Doran adding his second after rounding defender Alberto Masi. Another floodlight problem saw five minutes of stoppage time added, which was enough for El Shaarawy to grab a consolation goal for Italy.
Ireland recorded an emphatic 4-2 victory, but having lost to Turkey and Hungary in recent weeks, it was not enough for King's side to reach the playoffs.