Alfie's Northern Ireland girls sunk by Italy's late show
Italy 3-1 Northern Ireland
Italy struck three goals in the final 19 minutes as they inflicted a heartbreaking 3-1 defeat on Northern Ireland in their Women's European Championship qualifier.
Northern Ireland stunned their Italian hosts when Everton's Simone Magill opened the scoring just after the hour mark.
Just when it looked like Alfie Wylie's girls might pull off a shock victory in Reggio Emilia, Italy struck an equaliser on 71 minutes and then put the foot on the gas in the closing stages, taking the lead on 86 minutes and then putting the seal on their victory deep in injury time.
"The girls gave everything against a top side," said Wylie.
"It was only two goals in the last five minutes that prevented us from getting something out of the game.
"The quality of our performance is extremely encouraging and hopefully we can carry that into the games against Georgia and the Czech Republic in June."
Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns was much busier than her Italian counterpart in the first half, but the Azzuri couldn't find a way past her.
Rachel Furness finally tested Katja Schroffenegger on 59 minutes and after Barbara Bonansea struck the woodwork with a free kick two minutes later Northern Ireland went straight to the other end and made it 1-0.
Magill pounced as Bartoli's header failed to reach the goalkeeper and she finished with a superb chip.
Italy reacted by bringing Daniela Sabatino into the action four minutes after the goal and she had a major impact on the game just five minutes later, stealing in at the front post to divert a cross into the net.
Ilaria Mauro made it 2-0 in the 86th minute after Burns had saved from Bonansea.
With Northern Ireland pushing for an equaliser Daniela Stracchi netted the third goal in the third minute of injury time, but there was still time for captain Julie Nelson to force a late save from Schroffenegger,
ITALY: Schroffenegger, Bartoli, Bonansea, Caccamo (Guagni 46 mins), Gama, Mauro, Linari, Parisi, Rosucci (Sabatino 66 mins), Stracchi, Tucceri Cimini. Subs: Tasselli, Galli, Di Criscio, Girelli, Manieri.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Burns, Lindsay, Foy, McFadden, Nelson, Rafferty, Bergin, Callaghan, Magill, Furness, McGuinness (Hyndman 77 mins). Subs: McKenna, Newborough, Sherwood, Crackle, Brennan.
Referee: Lina Lehtovaara (Finland)