Florence - Southampton striker Graziano Pelle scored off Antonio Candreva's pinpoint cross to hand Italy a precious 1-0 win over Malta in Florence.
The win sent Italy top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group.
Italy coach Antonio Conte welcomed the win but admitted some of his players were still looking for form.
"We're top of the group. Let's look at who is still fighting fit before we take on Bulgaria," said Conte.
"We're still at the start of the season and the condition of some players has to improve, but I'm happy with the lads' commitment. They showed their desire to go out and win this match."
To his credit, Malta coach Pietro Ghedin admitted the validity of the goal was a non-issue: "I didn't see a replay of the goal, but it's not important. The game is finished.
"Italy are a team that have a lot of charisma. They can score when they want, more or less, but I'm still sorry we didn't get something from this match."
With Ghedin sticking to his trusted 5-3-2 formation, Conte deployed a 4-3-3 with Manolo Gabbiadini preferred to Candreva on the right of Pelle and Eder on the left of Italy's frontline.
Sampdoria striker Eder, with four goals in two games so far, is Serie A's man of the moment but it was Pelle who earned the lion's share of Italy's chances in a one-sided opening half that saw the hosts frustrated time and again.