Ta’ Qali (Malta) (AFP) – Southampton striker Graziano Pelle hit a second-half winner as an injury-depleted Italy beat Scotland 1-0 in a disjointed Euro 2016 friendly in Malta on Sunday.
With his midfield decimated through injuries to Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti, and Thiago Motta and Riccardo Montolivo resting due to calf problems, Italy coach Antonio Conte gave Roma’s Daniele De Rossi a chance to impress before announcing his 23-man Euro 2016 squad on Tuesday.
Inter striker Eder was in a similar position, having failed to spark for the Nerazzurri following his move from Sampdoria.
Thankfully for both, Eder and De Rossi were involved when Pelle pounced to beat David Marshall in the 57th minute with a clinical strike from the edge of the area.
But before then, the Azzurri flattered to deceive in a largely messy first half punctuated by three near misses from enterprising Bologna midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini.
Scotland’s sole victory over Italy came in 1965 and this was the sides’ first meeting since a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Almost immediately, Gordon Strachan’s men were under threat, Marshall producing saves to stop Antonio Candreva’s fierce free-kick and Giaccherini’s follow-up.
Deploying his preferred 3-5-2, Conte saw Italy create chances but he will be disappointed with the lack of return.
Giaccherini was wasteful twice more, ballooning over from 12 yards from Candreva’s assist and, after the Lazio man’s volley flew wide, spinning a great chance wide of post and bar having sprinted behind the defence to meet De Rossi’s smart delivery.
Candreva and Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi, whose shot fizzed just off target, came close again but it was a frustrating half for the Azzurri.
An early return to the pitch three minutes before kick-off was a sign of Italy’s intentions and the hosts visibly moved up a gear before breaking the deadlock.
De Rossi threaded a great ball through for Eder, who did well to hold off his markers and push the ball into the path of Pelle, whose powerful strike gave Marshall no chance.
Conte made a series of changes, Napoli front man Lorenzo Insigne replacing Eder moments later, when Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian was replaced at wing-back by another France hopeful in Federico Bernardeschi.
Soon after, Pelle made way for Juventus striker Simone Zaza while Napoli’s Jorginho came on for De Rossi, although the substitutions likely left Conte with more questions than answers as Italy failed to build on their opener.
Steven Naismith replaced Matt Ritchie minutes later in a double Scotland substitution that saw Matt Philips came off in place of Oliver Burke.
Norwich striker Naismith’s tame shot went just wide of the upright and although the visitors pushed for a late equaliser, Italy were firmly in command and happy to sit on the win.
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