Italy press react to Graziano Pelle performance versus Malta

Southampton striker starred on his Azzurri debut and the Italian media claim it was the only plus point in an otherwise drab encounter.

Southampton summer signing Graziano Pelle starred on his debut for Italy on Monday evening as Italy edged a 1-0 triumph over Malta at the Ta'Qali National Stadium in Ta'Qali, however, while the individual display was strong, the team performance was lacking as the Azzurri laboured to victory.

Pelle, a pitch veteran who had led a journeyman career to date, has been flourishing of late as he has followed his last season's prolific form at Feyenoord (23 goals from 28 games) by netting four in seven for the Saints.

The 29-year-old was terrific against Malta and, after being responsible for good build-up play that lead to a set-piece, Pelle was in the right place at the right time to capitalise on confusion in the box as the Southampton star struck via a tap-in.

La Gazzetta dello Sport cited Pelle the "rookie" as the one player to have won all the points for Italy, as the rest of the team were "uninspiring". Pelle's call-up was a "prize for his great start to the season [at Southampton]".

The manner in which Antonio Conte shaped his team to start the match, with Pelle on the pitch from the off, was almost as if to play up to the strengths of the tall centre forward.

Midway through the game, Conte - who has helped overhaul the Azzurri since his appointment two months ago - even brought on attack-minded midfielder Sebastian Giovinco and placed him near Pelle, Gazetta write, as if to play up to the strengths of the Saint.

Pelle now returns to club football as Southampton ready themselves for a St Marys Stadium clash with Sunderland.

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