Italy again suffered at the hands of North Macedonia as their poor start to European Championship qualifying continued with a shock draw in Skopje.
Ciro Immobile nodded the Azzurri ahead in new boss Luciano Spalletti’s first game in charge.
But Enis Bardhi’s 20-yard free-kick earned a point for the hosts, who upset Italy in the World Cup 2022 play-offs.
The draw means reigning European champions Italy face an uphill task to reach next year’s finals in Germany.
The Euro 2020 winners sit third in Group C, level on four points with North Macedonia and three behind Ukraine, who the Azzurri host in a now hugely important qualifier at the San Siro on Tuesday.
Italy do have a game in hand on Ukraine but must still play away to both Serhiy Rebrov’s team and group leaders England – whom they beat in the last European final – in two of their last three qualifying matches.
They were lucky not to fall behind early on against North Macedonia as Aberdeen midfielder Bojan Miovski headed wide from former Leeds winger Ezgjan Alioski’s cross.
Sandro Tonali hit the post as Italy responded, and when Immobile headed home from close range after the break it seemed there would be a winning start for 64-year-old Spalletti – the man who led Napoli to their first Serie A title in 33 years in May and replaced Roberto Mancini as Azzurri boss in August.
However, North Macedonia produced arguably one of the biggest international football shocks of all time with a 1-0 win in Palermo 18 months ago that ensured Italy would miss the World Cup finals in Qatar.
They channelled a similar spirit to level nine minutes from time on this occasion when Bardhi curled an exquisite set-piece out of the reach of Gianluigi Donnarumma.