Graziano Pelle breaks the deadlock as Italy take a 1-0 lead into the break against Malta.
A first international goal for Graziano Pelle has given Italy a 1-0 lead over Malta, who were reduced to 10 men in an eventful first half at the Ta' Qali National Stadium.
Italy started the match very brightly, and were close to breaking the deadlock inside the opening minute when Ciro Immobile struck an effort just past the post from the edge of the box.
Malta were then inches away from taking a surprise lead through Clayton Failla, whose deflected shot drifted wide of the target with Gianluigi Buffon looking helpless.
Despite the scare, it was Italy who remained in control of the match, and they continued to apply the pressure as Pelle and Giorgio Chiellini both struck the woodwork with powerful headers.
However, their frustration would come to an end in the 23rd minute when Pelle fired home from close range after Malta had failed to clear a corner.
Malta's task was made even more difficult a few minutes later when Michael Mifsud was shown a red card for a high challenge on Alessandro Florenzi.
Live Commentary: Malta 0-1 Italy - as it happened >