Q Radio Sport
First-half goals from Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile saw Italy beat Northern Ireland 2-0 in their opening Group C World Cup Qualifier in Parma.
The home side took a 14th-minute lead thanks to Berardi's well-taken strike, before Immobile's low drive doubled their advantage seven minutes before half-time.
However, if the Italians thought their work was done for the night at the interval, they were given a shock in the second half as Northern Ireland - driven on by the impressive Gavin Whyte - took the game to their opponents.
Michael Smith was denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma's close-range block, before the AC Milan 'keeper had to react smartly to keep out Josh Magennis's near-post flick as the hosts grew more anxious.
The visitors' best chance, though, fell to Paddy McNair late on, but the midfielder blazed wastefully over the bar from six yards out after being set up by Steven Davis on his record-equalling 125th cap.
Confirmed: The #GAWA legend that is @StevenDavis8 win his 125th Northern Ireland cap in tonight's #WorldCup qualifier v @Azzurri in Parma and equals the UK record for international appearances. Jamal Lewis ruled out: pic.twitter.com/eXsdOpymXt— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) March 25, 2021
The defeat makes Wednesday night's home clash with Bulgaria all the more important for Ian Baraclough and his players.
There's a friendly first - a first meeting with the United States on Sunday evening in Belfast.
FT: #FIFAWorldCup qualifying@Azzurri 2— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) March 25, 2021
Berardi, Immobile@NorthernIreland 0
It looked bleak at the break in Parma for #GAWA going in 2 down, but they showed character, fought back & created chances in an encouraging 2nd half
Next up USA friendly, Windsor Park, Sunday 5.05pm pic.twitter.com/hipyLTGsT3
Italy v Northern Ireland
Sky Sports player ratings
Italy: Donnarumma (8), Chiellini (8), Emerson (7), Florenzi (6), Bonucci (8), Locatelli (6), Verratti (6), Pellegrini (6), Insigne (9), Berardi (7), Immobile (8)
Subs: Chiesa (6), Pessina (6), Grifo (6), Spinazzola (6), Barella (6)
Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell (6), J Evans (7), Dallas (7), Smith (7), Cathcart (6), Davis (7), C Evans (6), McCann (7), McNair (6), Whyte (8), Magennis (7)
Subs: Saville (7), Thompson (6), Lavery (6), Lafferty (7)
FT: #FIFAWorldCup qualifying @FSSrbije 3@FAIreland 2— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) March 24, 2021
Alan Browne & James Collins on target in Belgrade but the Serbs prevail with Aleksandar Mitrović striking twice.
Stephen Kenny's quest for a first win as Republic boss continues v Luxembourg in Dublin on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/ORDAdtLUil
After losing their opening match in Serbia, the Republic are back in action on Saturday night, with their first home qualifying tie, at home to Luxembourg (7.45pm).
There's a full set of fixtures in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday with Glentoran facing Crusaders at The Oval.
The other 3pm starts are Cliftonville against Coleraine, Ballymena hosting Dungannon, Carrick welcoming Warrenpoint and Larne away to Glenavon.
The late 5.30 kick-off sees leaders Linfield take on Portadown at Shamrock Park.
Meanwhile, NIFL has confirmed it wants to complete a 38-game season and has released the remaining pre-split fixtures: