Italy defeated the Republic of Ireland 2-0 in a nervy encounter to ensure their place in the quarter finals, but for Ireland it was a third consecutive defeat and Keith Andres saw red late-on.
Ireland were unbeaten in three matches against Italy under Giovanni Trapattoni's management and for 36 minutes their performance was much improved after a disappointing tournament.
But once Italy took the lead the Irish lacked purpose and whilst they pushed for a leveller after the break a late goal settled the nerves of their opponents who needed a victory to progress.
Antonio Cassano gave the Italians the lead from a corner with a headed goal from close range which the officials deemed to have crossed the line.
Italy needed the cushion of another goal as a draw could have prevented them going forward into the knockout phase, but they had to wait until the final minute.
Moments before the decisive second goal Ireland had Keith Andrew’s dismissed for a second yellow card and when Alessandro Diamanti sent over a corner substitute Mario Balotelli scored with a spectacular overhead kick to settle the Italian’s nerves.
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)
Venue: Muncipal Stadium, Poznan
Italy scorers: Cassano 36, Balotelli 89
R of Ireland scorers:
Yellow cards: O’Shea (IRE), St Ledger (IRE), De Rossi (ITA),
Red card: Andrews (IRE)