Graziano Pelle struck in the second half to halt Italy’s four-match winless run with a 1-0 victory over Scotland on Sunday, giving the Azzurri’s Euro 2016 preparations a lift.
Antonio Conte’s men had not won since their qualifying campaign drew to a close, with defeats to Belgium and Germany, either side of draws with Romania and Spain, depriving them of the chance to build any momentum.
The Euro 2012 runners-up never looked like losing in Malta, but their inability to convert promising opportunities during the first half was a concern.
However, Southampton striker Pelle produced an accomplished finish 12 minutes into the second half to clinch a welcome victory for Italy, who face Finland in their last pre-tournament friendly and will name their final 23-man Euro 2016 squad this week.
Scotland failed to register a single shot on target during the 90 minutes – Matt Ritchie’s late strike wide their only effort of any description – and will hope for an improved performance when they provide the opposition for the last warm-up fixture of tournament hosts France.
Italy probed the Scottish defence with little reward during the first half, Emanuele Giaccherini looking particularly dangerous.
David Marshall parried a powerful Antonio Candreva free-kick into the Sunderland attacker’s path early on, but the goalkeeper was equal to Giaccherini’s effort on the rebound and Pelle was unable to send in a third attempt.
Candreva and Giaccherini combined again for Italy’s next chance, the Lazio winger cutting back only for the eventual effort to be lifted harmlessly over the crossbar from the centre of the box.
Italy continued to control possession but Giaccherini was again guilty of squandering a golden opportunity when he prodded wide after taking down a long Daniele De Rossi ball over the top.
Alessandro Florenzi then sent an optimistic effort sailing wide of the left-hand post, and Eder felt he should have been awarded a penalty when he was outmuscled by the Scottish defence just before the break.
Scotland had been impotent in the first half and striker Ross McCormack was taken off during the interval after making just six touches in the opening 45 minutes.
Giaccherini could count himself unlucky when he was wrongly called offside five minutes into the second half, but Pelle soon put Italy in front.
Taking the ball off the feet of Eder at the edge of the penalty area, Pelle guided a powerful effort beyond a diving Marshall.
Substitutions interrupted the flow of Italy’s play but Scotland, who saw Ritchie fire wide with 12 minutes to play, continued to prove unable to test Gianluigi Buffon – the goalkeeper perhaps left feeling he was worked harder during the pre-game warm up than during the match itself.
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