Ciro Immobile struck twice to lead Italy's rally in a 3-2 win at Macedonia Sunday to keep the Azzurri level on points with leaders Spain in their World Cup qualification group.
Italy's lead from Andrea Belotti was reversed after the break by Ilija Nestorovski and Ferhan Hasani. Immobile levelled on 75 minutes to end a dull phase from the Azzurri and nodded home in injury time.
Italy move on seven points from three games while Spain, who won 2-0 at Albania, lead Group G on goal difference. Albania and Israel sit on six points, while Macedonia and Liechtenstein have none.
“Ninety per cent of our mistakes were due to inexperience or poor focus,” Italy boss Giampiero Ventura said. “When you have many youths on the pitch you have to be patient.
“We had 10 bad minutes, then we came back. These are moments you have to endure with young players. Immobile did his job, but for 15 minutes no one did it. Still, we are slowly getting better.”
In the Macedonia capital, Andrea Belotti was unmarked when he volleyed home a corner kick on 24 minutes, but through most of the game failed to properly cooperate with his striking companion Immobile as the young pair started in lieu of Eder and Graziano Pelle.
The Azzurri allowed the hosts to threaten early in the game from captain Goran Pandev and in the 18th minute were saved by the bar on a drive from Ilija Nestorovski.
Immobile opened the second half with a break, but Italy paid dearly for two mistakes by playmaker Marco Verratti and Federico Bernardeschi, which triggered deadly counter-attacks on 57 and 59 minutes.
Nestorovski, a striker for Serie A side Palermo, was clinical to stun Buffon on the bottom right corner before Hasani scored with a low shot.
After Buffon saved from substitute Besart Ibraimi and Daniel Mojsov, Immobile tapped in off Candreva's feed from the right and headed in from close range two minutes into stoppage time.
“In the second half we were a little weak and after they levelled (for 1-1) were not able to react, but then we did well,” Immobile said. “You must be grittier in these games.
“After this showing I feel important and I feel well in this group. We have to keep working if we want to get to (the tournament's finals in) Russia (in 2018).”