No shame in being sent the wrong way by one of the game's great penalty takers for the opener, and there was little he could do about Balotelli's second either, after having seen his defence carved open. Made a couple of good stops from the likes of El Shaarawy in the second half, though.
Showed an admirable willingess to take players on, skipping past De Sciglio with impressive ease five minutes in, and was involved in a lot of Malta's best attacking moves.
A rugged presence at the back for Malta, Muscat put in a number of hefty - but fair - challenges. Very nearly halved his side's arrears early in the second half but dragged a shot just wide of Buffon's goal.
In what was only his fourth appearance for his country, Camilleri looked nippy enough but his distribution was often sloppy.
Gifted the visitors a penalty with a horribly mistimed challenge on El Shaarawy just inside the area. Went some way towards atoning for his error by nicking the ball off Giaccherini's toes two minutes later and did his best to upset Balotelli with some rough treatment, but to no avail.
Threatened with a volley from a Herrera corner but, defensively, he was caused all sorts of problems by Abate and Montolivo.
Put in some pretty uncompromising tackles, most notably on Giaccherini, but was unable to impose himself on the proceedings in any positive way.
Responsible for the best piece of midfield play in the game, surging forward from just inside his own half before slipping in Schembri, who was then felled by Buffon in the area. However, he was otherwise anonymous.
Tested Buffon with a very awkward long-range free kick just after the half-hour mark and, overall, can be proud of his display after holding his own against illustrious opposition before eventually running out of steam.
Looked lively right from the off but blew a gilt-edged opportunity to level the game by firing his penalty far too close to Buffon. However, he was desperately unlucky to see his subsequent piledriver crash against the bar. His overall performance deserved a goal.
Malta's brightest attacking player. Earned the penalty by flicking the ball past Buffon, after leaving Barzagli trailing in his wake with a fine turn of pace on the edge of the area. Later embarrassed De Sciglio with more fancy footwork out on the left touchline.
Swept up well when required to exit his area but was guilty of needlessly rushing from his goal before taking down Schembri. However, class act that he is, Buffon made amends by saving the resulting spot-kick. Was lucky to see the forward's later long-range effort crack off the bar but led by example throughout.
M. De Sciglio
Beaten far too easily by Herrera early on but had already made a couple of penetrating runs down the left flank before teeing up Balotelli for the striker's second thanks to a sublime piece of control and a sharp cut-back. Was also greatly improved from a defensive perspective in the second half, too.
Justified his recall at the expense of Maggio by offering a tremendous outlet down the right-hand side, with the highlight of his game a terrific break down the right that really should have ended with Giaccherini putting Italy 3-0 up.
Ill-timed slip very nearly proved costly as it allowed Mifsud to unleash a shot which cannoned off the crossbar. Never really recovered his composure thereafter.
Not quite his usual immaculate self. The Juventus man ran the ball into touch at one point and was then completely bamboozled by Schembri on the edge of the area before the attacker was felled by Buffon.
Retained his place in the starting line-up, thanks in no small part to suspensions, but he failed to make the most of his second successive start. Really should have scored after being picked out in the area by the rampaging Abate shortly after half-time, and was replaced not long after.
Was caught in possession at one point but generally used the ball effectively and intelligently, and was unlucky to lift the ball just over the bar after superbly latching onto an El Shaarawy cross that was meant for Balotelli.
Back in the Azzurri midfield but not quite back to his best. Still, while he was not quite his usual dynamic self, he was still a reliable presence in midfield.
As usual, was always probing, looking for an opening, but not one attempted through-ball came off during a disappointing opening 45 minutes. Set-pieces were also unusually poor. But everything went through the veteran playmaker.
S. El Shaarawy
His touch was sublime throughout and it was he who won the penalty from which Balotelli opened the scoring by pipping Dimech to the ball in the area. Could have scored himself but had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside before curling one long-range effort just wide.
Miscontrolled the first pass he latched onto, but was pretty much flawless thereafter, offering a terrific out-ball as well as scoring two wonderfully well taken goals: the first from the spot in typically nonchalant fashion; and the second after being set up by De Sciglio. A player playing at the peak of his powers at the moment.