MX23RW : Tuesday, September 25 19:33:53
Oct 13, 2014 at 7.45pm UK

Briffa (41')
Mifsud (27')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Pelle (23')
Darmian (43')
Bonucci (73')

Live Commentary: Malta 0-1 Italy - as it happened

Sports Mole's live text commentary of the Euro 2016 qualifier between Malta and Italy at the Ta' Qali National Stadium.

Italy have won their third straight match in Euro 2016 qualifying by beating Malta 1-0 at the Ta' Qali National Stadium.

Graziano Pelle scored the only goal of the game on his debut after the hosts had failed to clear a corner.

Both teams finished the night with 10 men following straight red cards to Michael Mifsud and Leonardo Bonucci.

Find out how the action unfolded below.

7.15pmGood evening everyone! The Euro 2016 qualifiers continue this evening with Italy making the short trip across the pond to Malta. The Azzurri are the heavy favourites to pick up all three points, but they will have to guard against complacency given some of the shocks we have seen in recent days.

7.18pmAntonio Conte's men have won both of their qualifiers so far, but last week they were almost held to a surprise draw by Azerbaijan. Giorgio Chiellini had one of the most bizarre nights of his career, as he scored twice and netted an own goal during their 2-1 win in Palermo.

7.21pmIn stark contrast, Malta have lost their first two qualifiers. They were beaten 2-0 by Croatia last month, before falling to a 3-0 defeat against Norway last week. They have never qualified for a major tournament and it already looks as if they will not be heading to France in 2016.

7.24pmMALTA XI: Hogg, Z Muscat, Agius, R Camilleri, Mintoff, P Fenech, R Muscat, Briffa, Failla, Schembri, Mifsud

7.25pmITALY XI: Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini, Darmian, Candreva, Florenzi, Verratti, Marchisio, Pasqual, Pelle, Immobile

7.26pmMALTA SUBS: Haber, N Vella, Bezzina, Grioli, Baldacchino, R Scicluna, R Fenech, Kristensen, Cohen, S Pisani, T Vella, J Farrugia

7.27pmITALY SUBS: Sirigu, Perin, Ogbonna, De Sciglio, Pirlo, Aquilani, Parolo, Poli, Destro, Giovinco, Zaza

7.30pmTEAM NEWS: Southampton striker Graziano Pelle has been handed his Italy debut. He comes in for Simone Zaza and will partner Ciro Immobile upfront. Marco Verratti replaces Andrea Pirlo in the midfield and there also starts for Antonio Candreva, Manuel Pasqual and Matteo Darmian. Meanwhile, Malta's captain and leading scorer Michael Mifsud leads the attack for the home side.

7.33pmThe form of both teams coming into this match could not be more different. Italy have won their last three matches, while Malta have lost five on the bounce, including a defeat to Gibraltar who were thrashed 7-0 by the Republic of Ireland at the weekend.

7.36pmMalta fans will not need reminding that they have never beaten Italy. In fact, they have lost all of the six previous meetings between the teams. The last time they played was in World Cup qualifying last March, where two goals from Mario Balotelli wrapped up a comfortable 2-0 win for the Azzurri.

7.39pmPREDICTION: It is hard to look beyond an Italy victory this evening. They played well against Azerbaijan and should have had the game won well before Chiellini's late goal. Malta have not been in great form and there shouldn't be any shocks on the cards so I'm going to go for a 3-0 win for visitors.

7.42pmWe have just had the national anthems from both teams and the start of the match is just a few minutes away.

1 minKICKOFF! We are underway at the Ta' Qali National Stadium!

1 minCHANCE! The visitors almost take the lead inside the opening minute! Immobile is picked out by Candreva on the edge of the box and after taking a touch, he spins and fires a shot just wide of the far post.

2 minItaly have certainly made their intentions clear in the very early stages of this match and they are already well on top. They have seen all of the ball and they work a chance for Florenzi just outside the box, but the Roma midfielder scuffs his effort wide of the target.

5 minMalta are looking slightly nervous at the back and have lost the possession cheaply on a few occasions now. They have hardly had a touch of the ball, with Italy controlling the pace and tempo of the match.

8 minTo the home side's credit, they have been quick to close down their opponents. In particular, whenever Verratti is on the ball they are making sure that he doesn't have any time or space and they have put in a couple of rugged challengers already.

11 minWith the start that Italy made, I would have expected them to have more attempts on goal by now, but Hogg has not had a save to make. It did take them until just before half time to make the breakthrough against Azerbaijan, so patience will certainly be key this evening.

15 minCHANCE! The Italians are given a scare as Malta come close to making the breakthrough. It's Failla who has the chance, as he latches onto a loose ball just outside the box, before drilling in a strike that goes just wide of the post with the help of a slight deflection.

18 minOFF THE BAR! What a moment this would have been for Pelle. The Southampton striker almost nets on his debut after getting on the end of Pasqual's cross, but he sees his powerful header come back off the bar.

19 minOFF THE POST! The visitors hit the woodwork for the second time in minute! Chiellini, who scored twice the other night, arrives to meet Pasqual's corner at the back post, but ends up seeing his header hit the outside of the post.

21 minItaly are starting to crank up the pressure now and Marchisio tries his luck from 25 yards out with a low drive. It's a decent hit, but the ball is fired straight down the middle and Hogg ends up making the save.

23 minGOAL! Malta 0-1 Italy (Graziano Pelle)

23 minItaly finally take the lead and it's a first international goal for Pelle! The goal comes from a set piece, as Pasqual's corner is met by Bonucci, before being palmed away by the keeper. The ball eventually drops to Pelle in the six-yard box and he makes no mistake to slot home on his debut.

27 minRED CARD! Malta are already a goal down and they will now play the rest of the match with 10 men! Captain Mifsud is the player to be dismissed, as he goes in with a high challenge on Florenzi and the referee doesn't hesitate to show him a straight red card.

30 minIt was already proving to be a long night for the hosts, but things will certainly be much tougher for them now. There can't be any arguments about the card, as it was a poor challenge from Misfud. Manager Pietro Ghedin will surely need to change things around, with their only striker now off the pitch.

32 minFailla has looked one of the most dangerous players for the home side this evening and he steps up to take a free kick from all of 35 yards out. He ends up firing a powerful effort just wide of the post, with Buffon always confident that the ball was heading off target.

35 minIt's no surprise that Italy are completely dominating the possession stats given their man advantage. The game is being played inside the Malta half, with the hosts being pushed further and further back.

39 minMalta have to make all their chances count and they win a free kick just outside the box, which Failla steps up to take. There are plenty of men forward waiting for the cross, but he goes for a low strike that doesn't come close to troubling the keeper.

41 minYELLOW CARD! Briffa is fortunate to only pick up a yellow for a crunching challenge that leaves Verratti on the floor.

43 minYELLOW CARD! There is certainly no love lost between the sides and Darmian is the latest player to pick up a booking for a foul on Failla.

44 minFor all of their possession and dominance of the match, Italy look most dangerous from set pieces. This time it is Pelle who rises to meet a corner at the front post, but he doesn't make clean contact with the ball and ends up heading it high and wide.

45 minThere is going to be one minute of stoppage time at the end of the half.

45+1 minHALF-TIME: Malta 0-1 Italy

8.32pmAn intriguing first half comes to an end, with Italy 1-0 up in Malta. Graziano Pelle's goal on his debut for the Azzurri has given the visitors the lead. To make matters worse for Malta, they are also down to 10 men following Michael Mifsud's straight red card.

8.36pmIt's no surprise to see that Italy are dominating the statistics at half time. They have seen a huge 69% of the ball and have had nine shots on goal. Three of those have hit the target, while another two have hit the woodwork. Malta have had four shots, but Buffon is yet to be tested.

8.40pmWhat a great night this has turned out to be for Graziano Pelle. The 29-year-old had previously represented his country at Under-21 level, but he has made a mark on his senior debut. It won't come as a shock to fans of Southampton, as he has hit the ground running since his summer move, scoring five goals in eight games for the club.

8.43pmThere are two other fixtures taking place in Group H this evening. Croatia are having no problems in their match against Azerbaijan, having taken a 4-0 lead at half time. Meanwhile, it is 1-1 in the match between Norway and Bulgaria. If the scores stay the same, then Italy and Croatia will be five points clear at the top of the group, ahead of their meeting next month.

8.46pmBoth teams are making their way back out onto the pitch and the second half will be getting started in just a few moments.

46 minItaly take the kick off and get the match back underway!

46 minOFF THE BAR! The second half is barely a minute old, but the visitors have almost scored a second. It would have been a fortuitous goal had it found the net, as Candreva's mishit cross from the right ended up clipping the top of the bar.

49 minImmobile has a real shout for a penalty, after appearing to be clipped just inside the box by Camilleri. There weren't any strong appeals from the visitors, but the replays show that there was certainly contact.

51 minOne thing that Pelle has added to the Italy attack this evening is a target man that can out muscle the defence. He has linked up well with Immobile and on this occasion his lay off finds the Dortmund man on the edge of the box, but he can only fire a strike wide of the post.

53 minCHANCE! It really should be two for Italy, as Immobile gets on the end of a cross inside the six-yard box, but he heads the ball straight into the gloves of the keeper.

56 minIt's still very much all Italy and Malta just can't get out of their half. The Italian midfield are passing the ball around with ease and the hosts are finding it tough to close them down.

59 minSUBSTITUTION: Italy make their first change of the evening, with Aquilani coming on to replace Florenzi.

62 minWhenever Malta do manage to win the ball, there is no one upfront to receive possession and they are giving it straight back to the visitors. They did manage to create some decent set piece opportunities in the first half and if they can get into a promising situation there is always a chance for them at 1-0.

65 minSUBSTITUTION: It's another change for the visitors, as Giovinco comes on for Immobile.

67 minGiovinco shows the first glimpse of what he can do since his arrival as he cleverly turns past his marker to work some space, before firing a strike over the bar.

70 minItaly just seem to have taken their foot of the gas over the past few minutes, which has allowed the hosts to see slightly more of the ball. They are still well on top, but will remember that they almost allowed victory to slip from their grasp against Azerbaijan last week.

72 minSUBSTITUTION: Malta make their first change, as Gatt Baldacchino replaces Mintoff.

73 minRED CARD! Out of absolutely nothing, Italy are down to 10 men. A long ball forward is headed back towards his own goal by Chiellini, with Schembri latching onto it. As the midfielder threatened to run through on goal, Bonucci took him down and was immediately shown a straight red card by the referee.

75 minGiovinco has looked lively since coming on and he does well to work some space just outside the box, before drilling in a low strike that is pushed behind by the keeper.

76 minSUBSTITUTION: Conte responds to that red card by bringing on Ogbonna in place of the goalscorer Pelle.

80 minThe sending off has encouraged the home crowd, who are in full voice now. The game is back in the balance as we enter the final 10 minutes, but as things stand the Azzurri are still in control and are keeping the ball well.

83 minIf there's any team in world football that can defend a 1-0 lead at this stage of the game it is Italy. They are playing the ball around their midfield and defence quite comfortably and are making it incredibly hard for their opponents to build any kind of attack.

86 minSUBSTITUTION: The hosts make their second change of the match, with Cohen replacing Schembri.

88 minMalta just haven't been able to put Italy under any pressure since Bonucci's sending off. They have had to put a great deal of effort into the game after playing with 10 men for so long and there are a lot of tired legs out there.

90 minThere are going to be three minutes of stoppage time.

90+1 minOFF THE POST! For the fourth time this evening Italy have hit the woodwork. Giovinco is the unlucky man on this occasion, as he bursts into the box, before drilling a low strike across the keeper that ends up smashing against the post.

90+3 minSUBSTITUTION: Malta make their final change of the night, as Bezzina comes on for Failla.

90+3 minFULL-TIME: Malta 0-1 Italy

9.38pmIt's all over and Italy have beaten Malta 1-0 thanks to Graziano Pelle's debut goal. It really should have been much more, but the woodwork came to the home side's rescue on a number of occasions.

9.40pmThe result means that Italy are level with Croatia on nine points in Group H. Croatia thrashed Azerbaijan 6-0 this evening and top the group on goal difference. It is certainly shaping up to be a huge match when those two teams go head to head next month at the San Siro.

9.42pmThat's all we've got time for here. Don't forget that we will have all the reaction and results from today's Euro 2016 qualifiers. I hope that you have enjoyed our coverage of tonight's match. Until next time, goodbye!

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Italy's coach Antonio Conte follows the action during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group H qualifying football match Norway vs Italy on September 9, 2014
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Preview: Malta vs. Italy

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