England Under-21s' nine-match winning streak was brought to a controversial end as Italy capitalised on the confusion surrounding Craig Dawson's disallowed goal to win their European Championship opener 1-0.
The West Brom centre-back looked to have nodded the Young Lions ahead four minutes after the restart of the Group A clash in Tel Aviv. England players ran off in celebration, the announcer gave the goal - only for referee Antony Gautier to chalk the header off to mass confusion. An apparent push by Steven Caulker in the build-up looked to be behind the decision.
Gautier also waved away first-half penalty appeals from Alessandro Florenzi, before appearing to inexplicably change his mind on a spot-kick. The Frenchman eventually adjudged Nathaniel Clyne's foul on Manolo Gabbiadini to be outside the box but Italy's frustration soon turned to joy. Lorenzo Insigne struck home the resulting free-kick to secure a 1-0 victory.
The Italians, considered favourites for Group A by Young Lions boss Stuart Pearce, soon kicked into gear. Ciro Immobile was inches away from netting a 10th-minute opener when he beat Dawson to a through ball and sent a half volley just wide.
Moments later, Italy had another chance. Immobile played through Luca Marrone down the left and he sent a cross to the back post, where Florenzi's goalbound strike was blocked by Robinson before Insigne struck just wide of Jack Butland's near post.
The Napoli winger came close in the 24th minute, playing a one-two with Immobile before delicately lifting the ball over Butland and, fortunately for England, the crossbar. Insigne was then allowed to break free down the left and sent an inspired ball across to Florenzi, who looked to have been brought down by Jack Robinson in the box but referee Gautier disagreed.
England returned for the second half with renewed vigor and found the net three minutes after the restart, only for the offside flag to deny Wickham. But a minute later it looked like the Young Lions had found the opening goal. Shelvey sent in a corner that Caulker prodded forwards and Dawson met with a header that looped into the top corner.
England players went off in celebration that went on for a quite a while, before it became clear the goal had been disallowed for an apparent Caulker push on Matteo Bianchetti. It led to mass confusion inside the stadium as Dawson was announced as scorer over the tannoy and shown on the big screen as play continued.
It was an incident that seemed to knock England, with Immobile firing wide before Fabio Borini forced Butland into an acrobatic save with a header from an acute angle. However, the England goalkeeper was also shaky at times and was almost caught out immediately, hitting a clearance straight at Borini which the Liverpool striker could only put wide.
The attention was soon back on referee Gautier, though. The Frenchman appeared to point to the spot after Clyne fouled substitute Gabbiadini, but then changed his mind and awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Not that it mattered to Italy, though, as Insigne delightfully curled home the resulting set piece past Butland.