First-half goals enough for Italy

Italy scored twice in the first half to beat Malta 2-0 at the National Stadium in a match from Group C of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2024. 

Roberto Mancini’s side, therefore, collected their first three points after the loss to England while for Malta, this was the second defeat in as many matches following the 1-2 defeat against North Macedonia in Skopje.

Ironically, Malta had an excellent goal-scoring opportunity in the opening minutes but once the visitors forged ahead, doubling the score a few minutes later, it was all over for Michele Marcolini’s side. During the second half, the locals showed some improvement, creating a couple of chances thanks to which they could have reduced the arrears.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Grima

Malta had four changes from the team which lost 1-2 to North Macedonia on Thursday as Juan Corbalan replaced Ryan Camenzuli on the left flank, Yannick Yankam and Nikolai Muscat replaced Bjorn Kristensen and Teddy Teuma, who was not fully fit, in midfield while Jodi Jones was preferred to Paul Mbong.

Ferdinando Apap, Steve Borg and Cain Attard were employed at the back, Joseph Mbong and Juan Corabalan on the flanks, Matthew Guillaumier and Yannick Yankam in midfield with Nikolai Muscat and Jodi Jones supporting Alex Satariano in attack. 

Italy, on the hand, had no less than eight changes as the only three players to be confirmed being goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Mateo Retegui.

Scalvini and Romagnoli were the two central defenders with Di Lorenzo and Emerson on the flanks, Tonali, Cristante and Pessina in the middle with Politano, Retegui and Gnonto in attack.

Malta had the first attempt at goal after just five minutes when Joseph Mbong concluded a good move by sending Alexander Satariano through and the latter’s close-range effort was turned into a corner by Donnarumma. From the resulting corner by Jodi Jones, Yannick Yankam’s header was parried by Donnarumma. 

Italy replied with an Alessio Romagnoli powerful drive which was tipped into a corner by Bonello on 14 minutes. From the resulting corner by Sandro Tonali, Mateo Retegui was left unmarked to head home from close range and put the visitors ahead.

On the 27th, Italy doubled the score. Emerson delivered a cross from the left and Matteo Pessina flicked the ball home from close.

The visitors threatened once again on the half hour when substitute Vincenzo Grifo received a cross from the right but his first time effort was blocked by Bonello. Grifo went close once again with a shot from outside the area ending just over the bar on 42 minutes. 

Twelve minutes in the second half, Malta threatened with an angled shot by Matthew Guillaumier following a corner from the right by Jones but the ball was blocked by a defender and off the rebound, Yankam’s effort was also blocked.

Henry Bonello performed a great save on an overhead kick by Gianluca Scamacca on 69 minutes.

Ten minutes from time, Joseph Mbong, served on the right by Yankam had a powerful shot blocked into a corner. 

Photos (below) courtesy of Domenic Aquilina/MFA

MALTA Henry Bonello, Cain Attard (64’ Zach Muscat), Steve Borg, Matthew Guillaumier, Joseph Mbong, Ferdinando Apap (83’ James Brown), Alexander Satariano (64’ Kyrian Nwoko), Juan Corbalan, Nikolai Muscat (76’ Teddy Teuma, Yannick Yankam, Jodi Jones (76’ Shaun Dimech).

ITALY Gianluigi Donnarumma, Giovanni Di Lorenzo (46’ Matteo Darmian), Wilfried Gnonto (21’ Vincenzo Grifo), Matteo Pessina, Emerson, Giorgio Scalvini (83’ Rafael Toloi, Bryan Cristante, Matteo Politano, Mateo Retegui (67’ Gianluca Scamacca), Sandro Tonali (67’ Marco Verratti), Alessio Romagnoli.

Referee:  Georgi Kabakov (BUL) 
Assistant referees: Martin Margaritov, Diyan Valkov (BUL) 
Fourth official: Nikola Popov (BUL)
VAR: Christian Dingert (GER) 
Assistant VAR: Dragomir Draganov (BUL)