LIEGE, Belgium (AP) – Giovanni Trapattoni coached Ireland to a 2-0 victory over his native Italy in a friendly Tuesday.
Blackburn midfielder Keith Andrews put Ireland ahead in the 36th minute following a free kick and second-half substitute Simon Cox doubled the lead in the 90th on a rainy night.
''If we really had to lose, it was better to lose to (Trapattoni),'' said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who played under Trapattoni at Juventus in the early 1980s.
After a light touch from Stephen Hunt, Andrews delayed his shot until Italy's wall opened, then launched the ball inside the near post as goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano looked on befuddled.
Italy's usual goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was rested.
Cox finished off a counterattack for his goal, easily redirecting a cross from Hunt inside the goal box.
Italy controlled for long stretches but was unable to create many clear chances before a crowd of about 20,000 dominated by Italian immigrants.
''Maybe Italy should have equalized for their technical skill and possession, but we took advantage of our opportunities,'' Trapattoni said.
An Italy defensive error nearly gave Ireland the lead in the 13th, but Shane Long shot wide.
''We certainly need to reflect over this,'' Prandelli said. ''We had problems with our movement in attack. We were too stagnant.''
Ireland had several usual starters missing, with Robbie Keane, John O'Shea, Kevin Kilbane and first-choice goalkeeper Shay Given excused from the trip.
Italy hadn't lost since being beaten 1-0 by Ivory Coast in a friendly in August. The Azzurri have registered five wins and one draw in European Championship qualifying and hold a comfortable five-point lead atop Group C.
Ireland, which still hasn't forgotten Thierry Henry's handball that prevented it from qualifying for last year's World Cup, is on top of Group B, level on points with Russia and Slovakia.
Two fans invaded the pitch in the final minutes, with one attempting to grab a glove from the Ireland goalkeeper - to no avail.
Ireland: David Forde, Paul McShane, Sean St. Ledger, Darren O'Dea, Stephen Ward, Seamus Coleman, Keith Andrews, Kevin Foley (Glenn Whelan, 60), Stephen Hunt, Andrew Keogh, Shane Long (Simon Cox, 60).
Italy: Emiliano Viviano, Mattia Cassani, Alessandro Gamberini, Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Criscito, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo (Angelo Palombo, 46), Antonio Nocerino (Alberto Gilardino, 59), Riccardo Montolivo, Giuseppe Rossi (Alessandro Matri, 46), Giampaolo Pazzini (Sebastian Giovinco, 59).