SKOPJE Italy coach Giampiero Ventura blamed inexperience for a second-half blackout which left his team on the brink of a shock defeat to rank outsiders Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday.
Macedonia, trailing 1-0 at halftime, scored two goals in three minutes and had two clear chances to score a third shortly afterwards as Italy dramatically fell apart.
The four-times world champions looked lost and could barely string two passes together until two goals from Ciro Immobile rescued the Italians and gave them a 3-2 win.
"For 10 minutes, we stopped being a team, but then we were once again the Italy that everyone knows and we got this result," said Ventura, who replaced Antonio Conte as coach after Euro 2016.
"We made mistakes borne out of inexperience, but that is something you have to accept with a group of young players."
The win puts Italy level on seven points with group leaders Spain who they trail goal difference after three games.
Ventura, a 68-year-old who is widely respected in Italy but has never won a major title in a long, much-travelled coaching career, said he still had confidence in his players.
"It's unlikely that we will keep making these mistakes, all we can do is improve," he said. "We have to be ourselves from now on. But with this group of lads, we have the possibility to do well."
Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon described the game as "very strange."
"We took the lead but we didn't administer this well because we gave away too many scoring chances, and that's a mistake we don't usually make," he said.
"The good thing was the result, we have been rewarded for playing with heart and soul although it was maybe more than we deserved.
"The coach tries to help us by passing on his concepts and his way of interpreting football," he added.
"At times we make mistakes, so that some games that seem easy on paper become complicated."
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris)