Italy secured a crucial 2-0 victory over Malta in their Euro 2024 qualification Group C clash on Sunday, thanks to goals from Mateo Retegui and Matteo Pessina.
After suffering a defeat in their opening game against England on Thursday, defending champions Italy were under pressure to deliver a result.
"These are games where you have everything to lose and they tend to be ugly. We did some things well, others less so, the important thing was to win," said Italy coach Roberto Mancini.
Italy started the match on the front foot, but Malta's defensive tactics proved difficult to break down.
The hosts even had a chance to take an early lead when Alexander Satariano's half-volley was pushed over the bar by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
However, Italy eventually broke through in the 15th minute when Retegui scored a powerful header from a corner.
Pessina doubled their lead just 12 minutes later, tapping in Emerson's cross from close range.
Despite Italy's dominance, they were unable to increase their lead further in the second half, with Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello making several crucial saves, including an impressive one-handed reaction save to deny Gianluca Scamacca's overhead kick.
"We could’ve done everything better, that’s for sure.
"When you are 2-0 up, you have the chance to play with less pressure and we should’ve made more of that," said Mancini.
Earlier on Sunday, England beat Ukraine 2-0 to take control of Group C.
With Italy back on track and England in impressive form, the race for the top spot in the group is set to be a fierce battle.