Italy scraped past England on penalties after the tie ended level at 1-1 after 90 minutes at the AEK Arena in Larnaca on Thursday night, to book their place in the Uefa under 17 championship semi finals.

The game was fast paced from the start, with both sides at ease zipping the ball around the pitch and flying into tackles when out of possession.

England looked dangerous going forward with Mikey Moore and Ethan Nwaneri, while Mattia Liberali provided the main Italian threat at the opposite end in the opening stages.

It was Moore and Nwaneri who combined for the Three Lions’ goal after a quarter of an hour, too, Moore driving through the heart of the Italian defence with the ball before laying off to Nwaneri, who arrowed the ball into the top left-hand corner from 20 yards.

England had the upper hand on the balance of play after going ahead, and while not absolutely dominant, were able to assert themselves a little more.

However, Italy were able to grow back into the game, and Liberali’s shimmy and toe-punt midway through the first half, reminiscent of Ronaldinho’s famous goal against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2005, was a sign of things to come, even if on this occasion English goalkeeper Oliver Whatmuff was equal to it.

They had the ball in the net a few minutes later, though Cristian Cama was adjudged to have been offside when Francesco Camarda played him through, and thus the goal did not count.

Just short of the half-hour mark, Liberali took matters into his own hands, dribbling past half the England team before firing past Whatmuff to draw Italy level.

Half chances at either end then followed, with Moore’s shot from the edge of the penalty area at one end being fired straight at Italian goalkeeper Alessandro Longoni, and Mattia Mosconi lashing the ball against the stanchion behind the goal from 25 yards out at the other, though Whatmuff looked untroubled by the effort.

From that point until the end of the half, the game calmed down somewhat, both sides likely wary of the negative psychological consequences of conceding and falling behind shortly before half time.

Italy looked the most likely to score in this period, however, with Emanuel Benjamin’s shot striking the post after a well worked attacking move.

The second half began with a flurry of half chances and full-blown chances for England, with Stephen Mfuni heading the first over the crossbar, and Italian goalkeeper Alessandro Longoni being called into action three times in three minutes.

First, he dived bravely at the feet of Shumaira Mheuka to prevent the England forward from getting a shot away, before then shaving an ultimately tame long-range effort from Christopher Rigg.

His third act was by far the most impressive, however, tipping a rasping Mheuka shot over the crossbar.

Whatmuff in the other goal was called upon on the hour mark, with a curling cross from Alessandro Di Nunzio meeting the head of Federico Coletta, who forced Whatmuff to react fast to save his header from close range.

Five minutes later, England came within inches of retaking the lead, with an Ethan Nwaneri free kick cannoning off the post, and Alessandro Longoni once again diving at the feet of an English striker, this time substitute Baylee Dipepa, to prevent a shot on his goal.

He was called into action again just five minutes later, throwing himself in the way of a close-range shot from Callum Olusesi.

Two minutes later at the other end, Cristian Cama flashed a shot across Whatmuff’s goal.

England remained in the ascendancy for the remainder of the game, with Baylee Dipepa firing over the crossbar with ten minutes remaining, and Christopher Rigg forcing another excellent save from Longoni with a volleyed shot which Longoni kept out with his feet.

Five minutes later, it was Mikey Moore who tested Longoni and found him once again to be resolute.

England could have won it three times in stoppage time, with a cross from Moore being turned behind by Andrea Natali and only marginally ending up outside the left-hand post, Ollie Harrisson having a shot cleared off the line by Lamine Ballo, and a goalmouth scramble ending in the ball once again ricocheting off Italy’s post.

In the end, they were punished in the shootout for not taking their chances, with all five Italian spot kick takers driving their shots imperiously into the corners of the net. The only of England’s five takers not to score, with Alessandro Longoni producing one final save to send his team on their way.

Italy will now go on to play Denmark in Sunday’s semi final. In the day’s other semi final, Portugal edged past Poland 2-1 at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca to set up a semi final tie with Serbia on Sunday.

Eduardo Felicissimo gave Portugal an early lead after five minutes, but a Michael Izunwanne goal ensured the sides went in level at half time.

Rodrigo Mora won the tie with half an hour to play, though he knew little about it, as the ball hit him from a misplaced punsh from Polish goalkeeper Mateusz Jelen. Even so, it counts as his his fifth goal of the tournament so far.