Goals from Daniele De Rossi and Ciro Immobile saw Italy beat Albania 2-0 to ensure they stay level on points with Spain in Group G.
Albania started the better of the two sides but soon found themselves behind after Migjen Basha pulled Andrea Belotti’s shirt at a free-kick, giving Italy a penalty which De Rossi converted after a brief delay for flares to be cleared off the pitch.
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De Rossi and Belotti both squandered free headers free headers before half-time, while the lively Odise Roshi also missed the target with the visitors’ best chance.
After the break Italy were much improved and utterly dominant, with even a nine-minute suspension to the game due to smoke from pyrotechnics set off by the Albanian fans unable to throw them off their rhythm.

Daniele De Rossi

Image credit: Eurosport

And Immobile put the game beyond doubt 20 minutes from time he headed a Davide Zappacosta cross in at the back post.
Italy stay second in the group, level on points with leaders Spain but eight goals worse off in the goal difference stakes, while Albania's hopes of qualification are surely over as they languish in fourth.

TALKING POINT

Buffon marks landmark with a clean sheet. It was Guinluigi Buffon’s night – he was making his 1000th professional appearance and winning a European record 168th international cap – so it was fitting that he kept a clean sheet. He wasn’t particularly tested, with Albania missing the target when their best chances presented themselves, but he won't care.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Davide Zappacosta (Italy). The right-back was excellent in just his third international appearance, proving a constant menace for Albania. Ansi Agolli should have been sent off for a pair of fouls on him in the first half, but his biggest impact was after the break when his fantastic cross set up the second goal.

KEY MOMENTS

1’ – CHANCE! Roshi gets to the byline down Albania's left and cuts the ball back to Cikalleshi who maneuvers himself into space before dragging a shot inches wide of the far post.
11’ – PENALTY! As Candreva floats a free-kick into the Albanian box, Basha pulls Belotti and a spot-kick is given.
12’ – GOAL! Italy 1-0 Albania (De Rossi). De Rossi scores! He strikes the penalty low to the goalkeeper's right to give Italy the lead.
28’ – CHANCE! Candreva's free-kick is met by Belotti eight yards out but he doesn't make a clean connection with his head and the ball flies wide.
45’ – CHANCE! Albania string together a few passes on the edge Of Italy's box before the ball breaks to Roshi, who is rushing in from the left and tries to curl one into the far top corner, but he can't hit the target.
71’ – GOAL! Italy 2-0 Albania (Immobile). Insigne sends a free-kick into the wall but Italy recycle the ball and Zappacosta sends a delicious cross to the back post where Immobile heads back across goal and in off the post.

PLAYER RATINGS

Italy: Buffon 6, Zappacosta 8, Barzagli 6, Bonucci 7, De Sciglio 6, De Rossi 6, Verati 6, Candreva 6, Inisgne 7, Immobile 6, Belotti 6.
Albania: Strakosha 6, Hysaj 6, Veseli 6, Ajeti 6, Agolli 4, Basha 5, Kukeli 6, Memushaj 6, Lila 5, Cikalleshi 5, Roshi 6. Subs: Sadiki 5, Grezda 5, Latifi 5.

KEY STATS

  • De Rossi’s goal was his 20th for Italy.
  • Immobile has five goals in this qualifying campaign alone.
  • Italy have won 12 of 14 games in Palermo, losing only once.
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