(Reuters) – Italy laboured to a scrappy 2-0 win over Malta in a World Cup Group B qualifier in Modena on Tuesday as an early strike from Mattia Destro and a late Andrew Cohen own goal earned them the three points.
AS Roma striker Destro capitalised on Italy’s fast start when he latched on to a smart Claudio Marchisio through-ball to score after five minutes, but Cesare Prandelli’s side struggled to create much in a lacklustre first half in which they were whistled by their own fans.
Napoli’s highly-rated Lorenzo Insigne was sent on for a disappointing Alessandro Diamanti at halftime and although his livewire display lifted Italy it was not until the last minute that Italy doubled their lead when Cohen deflected home Federico Peluso’s header following a corner.
"Right now the team isn’t playing amazingly well, we know that historically September is a particularly difficult month," Prandelli told reporters.
"However, we have to rediscover that certainty that we had before, the play, the cutting edge, the enthusiasm, and in the second half we saw a much better-drilled team."
The win lifted Italy to four points and left them joint top of Group B with Bulgaria who beat Armenia 1-0.
(Writing by Terry Daley, editing by Ed Osmond)
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