Malta 0-2 Italy: Retegui delivers again as Azzurri dominate

By Sports Desk March 26, 2023

Mateo Retegui was on target once again as Italy triumphed 2-0 at Malta to record their first victory in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Argentina-born Retegui scored on his international debut in Thursday's 2-1 defeat to England and found the net once more with a simple 15th-minute opener three days later.

Matthew Guillaumier's own goal 12 minutes later offered Roberto Mancini's side complete control at Ta' Qali National Stadium, with Malta rarely threatening a response.

Victory leaves Italy three points behind embryonic Group C leaders England, who eased past Ukraine by the same scoreline earlier on Sunday.

Malta almost grabbed an unlikely fifth-minute lead but captain Gianluigi Donnarumma rescued Italy with a fine stop against Alexander Satariano when one-on-one.

That missed chance proved pivotal as an unmarked Retegui headed home from Sandro Tonali's corner soon after, before Wilfried Gnonto limped off injured.

Guillaumier turned into his own net from Emerson's inviting cross as Italy furthered their lead, though Henry Bonello denied substitute Vincenzo Grifo to keep the scoreline respectable at half-time.

A frantic scramble inside the Italy area offered Mancini's visitors a rare second-half scare before Bonello thwarted a fizzing Bryan Cristante attempt.

Gianluca Scamacca's inventive acrobatic effort forced another smart Bonello save as Italy cruised to their first win on the road to Germany 2024.

 

What does it mean? Italy back on track after England disappointment

Italy lost for a first time in 41 European Championship qualifiers after failing to deliver against England in Naples but responded with an assured performance at lowly Malta.

With fellow qualification hopefuls Ukraine brushed aside by England in the second round of matches, Italy may hope for a simple qualification path by finishing second in Group C.

It may not be all straightforward for Mancini's men, though, with Ukraine by no means pushovers and two clashes to follow with North Macedonia, who eliminated Italy in the World Cup play-offs last year.

Rampant Retegui

Mancini has repeatedly fielded questions over his selection decisions to call up Retegui, who qualified for the Azzurri because of his grandfather's Italian passport.

Retegui silenced the critics once again, joining Riccardo Orsolini (November 2020), Enrico Chiesa (June 1996) and Giorgio Chinaglia (September 1972) as the only players to score in their first two Italy appearances.

Sorry Satariano

In stark contrast to the in-form Retegui, Satariano struggled against the experienced Alessio Romagnoli and centre-back partner Giorgio Scalvini.

The Malta striker faltered from a gilt-edged first-half opportunity and managed just seven passes before being replaced in the 64th minute, while even Italy goalkeeper Donnarumma enjoyed more than Satariano's 24 touches.

What's next?

Italy are not in action until their Nations League semi-final against Spain on June 15, while Malta host England in Euro 2024 qualifying the day after.

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