|1||Haber (GK)||1||Buffon (GK) (C)|
|9||M. Mifsud (C)|
|12||Hogg (GK)||13||Sirigu (GK)|
|5||Agius||12||De Sanctis (GK)|
|11||R. Fenech||3||L. Antonelli|
|Pietro Ghedin (ITA)||Cesare Prandelli (ITA)|
|Serdar Gözübüyük (NED)|
|C||Sweden||Republic of Ireland|
|G||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Greece|
|C||Republic of Ireland||Austria|
Italy consolidated their position at the top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group B as Mario Balotelli struck twice in the first half to secure a fourth win in a row.
With the Ta' Qali National Stadium a sell-out, the home crowd were hoping Pietro Ghedin's team could avoid defeat for the first time against Italy and earn a first point of the campaign. However, AC Milan forward Balotelli dampened their ardour with an eighth-minute penalty, before his second goal on the stroke of half-time secured the Azzurri a three-point lead over second-placed Bulgaria.
Fielding the 4-3-3 formation utilised in Italy's impressive friendly display against Brazil last week, Cesare Prandelli's men swiftly asserted their dominance and it did not take long for the superiority to show. Luke Dimech brought down Stephan El Shaarawy in the area and the striker's club-mate did the rest from the spot.
Malta came back into it with a bang in the 16th minute when they were awarded a penalty of their own, but Michael Mifsud's effort was saved by Gianluigi Buffon, who redeemed himself after fouling André Schembri.
Despite the setback the hosts continued to make a game of it and Clayton Failla and Mifsud both had notable efforts. However, the match was put out of reach on 45 minutes thanks to Balotelli's cool finish after excellent work from Mattia De Sciglio.
The visitors were unable to add to their tally in the second period against the section's bottom side, yet still cruised to the final whistle. Their next outing is in the Czech Republic on 7 June, the same day Malta go to Armenia.
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