The Azzurri win in Valletta thanks to a 1st half brace from Balotelli. His 1st goal was from the penalty spot, his 2nd following a cut back from De Sciglio. Buffon saved a Mifsud penalty when the score was still 0-1 and also hit the crossbar shortly after, again through Mifsud. The Azzurri extend their lead at the top of Group B, and qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is now a step nearer
Italy beat Malta 0-2. Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is now a step closer thanks to a brace from Balotelli. He brought his tally of goals for Italy to 8, scoring twice in the 1st half, his 1st from an early penalty before adding a 2nd on the stroke of half time.
The Azzurri didn’t play as well as they did in the exciting friendly against Brazil, even though that game ended in a draw. This time, Italy’s football was ‘so-so’, but the Italy players weren’t exactly motivated in the 2nd half, especially as the players had an eye on their Serie A games at the weekend. But they claimed all 3 points – even if there were perhaps too many frights along the way: Buffon saved a 1st half penalty and Mifsud hit the woodwork. And the draw between Denmark and Bulgaria also means that Prandelli’s side extend their lead in Group B.
The Italy side built around Juventus and AC Milan (Prandelli started 6 Bianconeri and 5 Rossoneri) took the lead after just 8 minutes, when El Shaarawy won a penalty kick following a shocking challenge from Dimech. A clear penalty. And Balotelli showed yet again that he doesn’t miss from the spot: he sent keeper Haber the wrong way to give Italy a 0-1 lead. Then the Pharaoh had a fantastic effort go just wide: a right foot shot from the left that cut across the goal and just went the wrong side of the post.
Italy’s start convinced everyone the game would be a procession for the Azzurri, who perhaps took their foot off the gas too early. Malta bounced back immediately and twice almost grabbed what would have been a shock – yet deserved – equaliser. On 15 minutes the home side won a penalty: Buffon rushed out to stop Schembri, who, although he made the most of it, was brought down following contact. But the Italy keeper made amends, saving the penalty from Mifsud. The right foot shot was hit hard, but was also hit down the middle of the goal. Danger over. But Italy still didn’t get the message. Mifsud again, this time with a fantastic piece of skill from outside the penalty area, when he skipped past Bonucci and hit a thunderous effort against the crossbar. It took Italy 25 minutes to regain their composure and control of the game. And they almost added a 2nd, through Montolivo, but his effort went just over.
Every time Balotelli got the ball, he was tackled hard and unfairly by the Malta players. He reacted angrily following a challenge from Dimech, and the players squared up to each other. But what could have turned into an ugly scene ended up with both players shaking hands. And then Balotelli reacted in the best way possible – by scoring a 2nd goal, right on the stroke of half time. He directed a delicate flick into the far corner following good work and a cut back from the left by De Sciglio.
2ND HALF — The 2nd half was very slow as Italy didn’t press their advantage home. Their 0-2 lead was more than enough for them. Especially as the players will be back playing Serie A football at the weekend. Malta didn’t do much either. An effort from Muscat that went wide, a penalty claim from Mifsud, but to no avail. Italy controlled the game well. They held on to possession. And Balotelli was booed off the pitch by the Malta fans when Prandelli replaced him with Gilardino. The coach also brought on Lazio’s Candreva (for Giaccherini) and Cerci (for El Shaarawy). It wasn’t a question of ‘tactics’, of playing a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-4-3. But it was a question of motivation. Italy had already claimed the 3 points they had set out to claim. It would have been tough for anyone to ask them to do more. The game ended with the same result it did when the sides met in Modena: a 2-0 victory to Italy.
- Malta 0-2 Italy | World Cup qualifier Group B match report (guardian.co.uk)
- Italy 2-2 Brazil: Balotelli beauty captures the Seleçao (theitalianist.com)
- Malta 0-2 Italy (espnfc.com)