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Key Events

78'
B. Kukeli
Yellow Card
74'
O. Roshi
Yellow Card
71'
C. Immobile
D. Zappacosta
2 - 0
70'
F. Veseli
Yellow Card
12'
D. De Rossi
Penalty Goal
1 - 0

Match Stats

Possession
57% 42%
8
8
Shots Off Target
Shots On Target 5 1
Total Passes 522 375
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Live table
Pos Team P W D L F A +/- PTS Form
1 Spain ESP Spain 10 9 1 0 36 3 +33 28 W W W W W
2 Italy ITA Italy 10 7 2 1 21 8 +13 23 W D W L W
3 Albania ALB Albania 10 4 1 5 10 13 -3 13 L L D W W
4 Israel ISR Israel 10 4 0 6 10 15 -5 12 L W L L L
5 North Macedonia MKD North Macedonia 10 3 2 5 15 15 0 11 W D D W L
6 Liechtenstein LIE Liechtenstein 10 0 0 10 1 39 -38 0 L L L L L

Key

Final Tournament
Possible Play-off

Commentary

Italy are next in action in a friendly against the Netherlands next Tuesday, whilst Albania, who remain in fourth place in Group G, will take on Bosnia and Herzegovina that same evening before their next qualifier away to Israel in June.
Another win keeps Italy hot on the heels of Spain, who remain top of Group G thanks to tonight's victory at home to Israel. The hosts weren't at their best this evening but nonetheless did enough to see off Albania, who, bar a few impressive moments, struggled to break down a determined blue back line.
FULL-TIME: ITALY 2-0 ALBANIA
90' + 1' Albania keep pushing forward as they try to find a late goal that would give Italy a slight scare, but they're unable to bring a promising move to a positive end as Memushaj pokes the ball out of play for a goal-kick. That should be that for the home side.
90' The fourth official has indicated that there will be only one minute of added time.
89' Grezda does well to keep a bouncing ball in play deep down the right wing before firing a volleyed cross on to the head of Cikalleshi. The striker does well to beat his marker in front of goal but can't beat Buffon, who is able to watch the ball sail over the top of the crossbar.
L. Latifi
M. Basha
88' Albania have made their final alteration of the game, with Liridon Latifi coming on to replace Basha and make his international debut.
87' Immobile and Insigne link up well on the edge of the Albania box before a low shot from the latter is deflected out for a corner. Again, De Rossi is able to make contact with the ball in a dangerous position in front of goal, but he can't hit the target and instead sends his downward header a few yards wide of the near post.
86' Another late Albania attack results in a set-piece for the visitors. A free-kick is fired low into the Italy penalty area and finds Grezda, who then spins and picks out Hysaj. The full-back is in a good position and quickly tries to find a team-mate at the near post, but he's unable to and Italy are just about able to hold on.
84' Albania push forward once again and do well to win themselves a corner over on the right flank. It's lifted into the middle of the penalty area before being cleared out to Basha, who then unleashes an awful strike that flies nearer to the corner flag than the Italy goal.
83' Memushaj darts through the middle of the pitch as he tries to carve out a rare chance on goal for Albania. He gets himself into a good position and then threads a pass through to Grezda, but he's unable to pick out the substitute and can only watch it roll into the hands of Buffon.
81' Candreva twists and turns deep down the left wing before skipping past his marker and curling a dangerous cross over to the far post. It fails to find Belotti, however, as the striker is beaten to the ball by the head of Hysaj just as he's about to pull the trigger.
E. Grezda
O. Roshi
79' Albania have made their second alteration of the night, with Roshi making way for Eros Grezda.
B. Kukeli
Yellow Card
78' Kukeli is caught on his heels and commits another clumsy challenge. The referee has clearly had enough of the midfielder's poor tackles and shows him a yellow card.
77' Another impressive attacking move from Italy breaks down and allows Albania to break away quickly, but a lofted pass fired up towards Cikalleshi fails to find the striker on the edge of the penalty area and is easily dealt with by Buffon.
O. Roshi
Yellow Card
75' Ouch! A flailing arm from Cikalleshi catches De Rossi on the side of the face and leaves the Italy midfielder in a heap on the floor, resulting in a yellow card for the forward.
73' Italy immediately win back the ball from the restart and push forward on another determined attacking move. They've certainly been the better of the two sides since the break, with Albania really struggling to hold on to possession for long periods of time.
D. Zappacosta
Assist
71' That was a wonderful cross from Zappacosta, who has arguably been one of Italy's best performers tonight. He's caused plenty of problems over on the right wing.
C. Immobile
Goal
71' GOAL! Italy have doubled their lead! The free-kick initially fails to result in a chance on goal but the balls rolls out to Zappacosta on the right flank. The full-back immediately whips a lovely cross back into the penalty area and over to Immobile, who rises high above his marker before nodding the ball into the back of the net from close range.
F. Veseli
Yellow Card
70' Verratti embarks on a wonderful run towards the penalty area before being hacked to the ground just outside of the Albania box, resulting in another free-kick for Italy in a very dangerous position.
A. Sadiku
A. Lila
68' Albania have made their first substitution of the game, with Lila making way for Sadiku.
66' And now Bonucci goes close! Once again, Albania fail to deal with a swinging corner and are caught out in the middle of the box, but Bonucci is unable to take advantage of the visitors' error and ends up sending his bullet header several yards wide of the far post.
65' Big chance for Candreva! The winger makes a great run into the right-hand side of the Albania penalty area before latching on to a lovely cross from Insigne, but his close-range shot is smothered by Strakosha and rolls out for another corner.
63' Now it's Barzagli who tries to emulate Candreva with a long-range shot of his own, but, unlike the winger's, the centre-back's effort is poorly struck and sails well wide of the Albania goal.
62' Candreva is left in a pocket of space 30 yards away from the Albania goal and decides to try and test Strakosha with a looping strike, but, despite being well hit, it fails to get the better of the goalkeeper and is comfortably saved.
60' Ajeti catches Verratti just outside of the Albania penalty area and concedes a free-kick in a very dangerous position. Candreva steps up and curls a lovely cross into the heart of the box, but Cikalleshi is back there to deal with the danger.
58' The game gets underway with an Albania free-kick from the right wing, but the referee's whistle is blown for a foul on an Italy player as soon as the ball is curled into the box.
57' The players are back on the pitch but the game has yet to get underway once again. A group of Albania players have gone over to the travelling supporters to appeal for game as they wait for the last of the smoke to subside.
57' GAME SUSPENDED! The Albania fans have been setting off flares all evening, and the referee has finally decided to take the players off the pitch after the Italy end of the pitch became totally engulfed in smoke.
55' Candreva and Zappacosta link up well before the latter tries to fire a low cross towards Immobile, but he's unable to beat a wall of red shirts and has to settle for a corner. It's swung in by Candreva and finds De Rossi, but, once again, he's unable to hit the target with his towering header.
53' Fantastic block by Ajeti! Immobile looks set to make it 2-0 to Italy after slipping into the Albania box and trying to beat Strakosha with a low strike, but Ajeti dives in front of the shot to stop it from testing the young goalkeeper at the near post.
51' Italy win themselves another corner that's well struck by Candreva, but, once again, Albania are able to make sure that the set-piece doesn't result in a chance on goal, as this time it's Ajeti who rises high to head the ball away from danger.
49' Candreva does well to get himself into a pocket of space over on the right flank before swinging a dangerous cross into the heart of the Albania penalty area. There's no one there to meet it, however, and the visitors are easily able to deal with the threat.
47' Belotti embarks on an early run into the right-hand side of the Albania penalty area before winning Italy a corner. It swings into the middle of the box and on to the head of Immobile, but the striker can only send his headed effort bouncing comfortably wide of the far post.
46' We're underway once again!
The two teams are making their way back out on to the pitch ahead of the start of the second half. Neither side have made any substitutions during the half-time break.
It wasn't the best of first half performances from Italy, but they've certainly done enough to deserve to head into the half-time break with a 1-0 goal lead. Albania started the brighter of the two teams but conceded a poor penalty with just 12 minutes on the clock, presenting De Rossi with a great opportunity to fire the hosts into the lead. It's one that the midfielder took with aplomb, and since then it's been an even contest between the two sides.
HALF-TIME: ITALY 1-0 ALBANIA
45' + 1' Great opportunity for Roshi! The ball pinballs around the edge of the Italy box before rolling over to Roshi on the left-hand side, but the winger is unable to find the back of the net and instead curls his first-time shot just a few inches over the top of the crossbar.
45' The fourth official has indicated that there will be just one minute of added time.
44' The resulting corner is quickly cleared out for a second, which then finds De Rossi in a good position in front of goal. The midfielder does well to out-muscle his marker before sending a header towards goal, but it isn't struck cleanly enough and fails to test Strakosha.
43' Thumping strike by Belotti! Kukeli slips midway inside the Albania half of the pitch and allows Belotti to break into the box before unleashing a rocket of a shot, but it's well saved by Strakosha with a strong stop in the middle of the goal.
41' Basha picks up the ball in the middle of the pitch and immediately launches a lovely lofted pass into the Italy penalty area and over to Hysaj, but the full-back is unable to control the ball before having it poked away by a great interception from Insigne.
39' De Rossi almost makes it 2-0! Albania fail to deal with a swinging corner once again and present De Rossi with an excellent opportunity to double Italy's lead, but his powerful header ends up flying just a yard or so over the top of the crossbar.
38' Great tackle by Roshi! Zappacosta creates plenty of problems over on the right wing once again as he darts towards the edge of the Albania penalty area, but Roshi is there to dispossess the full-back at the vital moment with a wonderful sliding tackle.
37' Hysaj, who has seen little of the ball in advanced areas, does well to bomb forward before winning Albania their first corner of the night. It's swung into the middle of the box and towards Ajeti, but Barzagli is there to head the ball away from the centre-back.
35' Immobile breaks through the Albania back line as he tries to latch on to a lofted pass forward, but his run is slightly mistimed and the linesman's flag is raised as soon as he reaches the ball.
33' Zappacosta gets himself into a good position over on the right wing once again before cutting inside and chipping a pass through to Immobile, but Arlind Ajeti is there to out-muscle the striker at the vital moment before thumping the ball away from danger.
31' Zappacosta is caught in possession after cutting inside from the right flank, giving Albania a chance to break forward on a quick counter-attack. They initially do so impressively thanks to good feet from Memushaj, but he's unable to find a way past Verratti and is dispossessed by a strong tackle from the Italy midfielder.
29' Kukeli clatters into Immobile from behind and gives away another free-kick to Italy in a dangerous position. This time it's Insigne who swings in a deep cross from the set-piece, but there's slightly too much power behind the pass and it fails to find Leonardo Bonucci at the far post.
27' Belotti goes close! The resulting corner is swung into the heart of the penalty area and right on to the head of Belotti, who did really well to rise high above his marker, but he's unable to guide his glancing header towards goal and instead sends it several yards wide of the far post.
26' Dangerous play by Agolli! The Albania captain gives the referee something to think about with another poor sliding challenge on Zappacosta, but this time the man in charge only awards a free-kick to Italy in a dangerous position deep down the right wing. It fails to result in a chance on goal, however, and is cleared out for a corner by the visitors.
25' Italy are trying to catch out the Albania back line with lofted passes into the penalty area, but, so far, none have managed to find their intended targets. This time it's Verratti who sends a long ball towards Immobile, but it's slightly overhit and fails to pick out the striker.
A. Agolli
Yellow Card
24' Ouch! Zappacosta tries to shepherd the ball out for a throw-in only to be scythed down by Ansi Agolli, who leaves the referee with no choice but to show the captain a yellow card that rules him out of Albania's next game.
23' Chance for Roshi! Albania's number 21 battles with Barzagli as he does really well to get the better of the defender. He skips round the centre-back and then tries to beat Buffon with a volleyed shot from the edge of the Italy box, but it's easily saved at the near post.
22' Kukeli crashes into Belotti from behind and concedes a free-kick midway inside the Albania half of the pitch. It's sent short and worked into the penalty area towards Lorenzo Insigne, but the winger is out-muscled by his marker before committing a clumsy foul.
20' Candreva slips into the right-hand side of the Albania box as Italy hit the visitors on another impressive attack, but he's aware that his run was slightly mistimed and has to leave the loose ball to Immobile, who is unable to keep it in play.
18' A space opens up over on the left-hand side of the Albania penalty area and allows De Sciglio to break into the box at speed, but he's unable to pick out a team-mate in front of goal and instead sends his cross straight into the hands of Thomas Strakosha.
16' Candreva charges down the right flank on a purposeful run before trying to pick out Davide Zappacosta inside the Albania penalty area. The pass up to the full-back is a good one but can't find its intended target, as he's well marshalled by Burim Kukeli near to the byline.
14' An Italy attacking move breaks down and allows Albania to try and hit the hosts on a quick counter. A first-time pass is fired down the right wing and into the path of Andi Lila, but Mattia De Sciglio is there to easily cut out the danger on the edge of the box.
D. De Rossi
Penalty Goal
12' GOAL! After waiting a few moments for a couple of flares to be removed from the pitch, Daniele De Rossi fires a wonderful strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to give Italy a much-needed lead.
L. Memushaj
Yellow Card
11' The Albania players are absolutely furious at the referee's decision, and Ledian Memushaj picks up a yellow card for dissent after confronting the man in charge.
10' PENALTY! Antonio Candreva is caught from behind by Roshi and wins a free-kick for Italy midway inside the Albania half of the pitch. The winger steps up and curls a cross into the box and towards Andrea Belotti, but the striker is pushed to the ground by Migjen Basha and the referee quickly points to the spot.
8' Vital clearance by Elseid Hysaj! A lovely dinked pass from Marco Verratti flies into the heart of the Albania penalty area and looks set to find Ciro Immobile in front of goal, but just as the striker is about to reach the ball, he has it thumped away from him by Hysaj.
6' It hasn't been the greatest of starts from Italy, who have looked sloppy during the opening minutes. They've struggled to find much joy inside the Albania half of the pitch, where the visitors have been defending resolutely.
4' Another chance for Albania! Roshi, who has started really well, picks up a loose ball on the halfway line and immediately ploughs forward. He darts towards the Italy box before rifling a thumping strike from 25 yards out, but this time Buffon is able to watch it bounce a yard or two wide of his near post.
2' What a start by Albania! The visitors move the ball around beautifully before Odhise Roshi breaks into the left-hand side of the Italy penalty area and cuts a clever pass back to Sokol Cikalleshi. The striker takes a quick touch and then unleashes a curling shot, but it ends up flying just past the far post after beating Gianluigi Buffon.
1' We're off! Albania get us underway, attacking from right to left.
The two sides are making their way out onto the pitch, with just a few minutes to go until kick-off.
Meanwhile, Albania boss Gianni De Biasi has also made five alterations to the team that featured in their last outing, with Etrit Berisha, Berat Djimsiti, Taulant Xhaka, Bekim Balaj and Azdren Llullaku making way for Thomas Strakosha, Frederic Veseli, Migjen Basha, Sokol Cikalleshi and Andi Lila.
Gian Piero Ventura has decided to make five change to the Italy side that started the draw against Germany in their last outing, with Andrea Barzagli, Mattia De Sciglio, Antonio Candreva, Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Insigne coming into the starting line-up to replace Daniele Rugani, Alessio Romagnoli, Marco Parolo, Matteo Darmian and Eder, respectively.
Albania substitutes: Alla, Grezda, Sadiku, Llullaku, Shehi, Xhaka, Latifi, Aliji, Balaj, Hyka, Abrashi, Hoxha.
Albania XI (4-3-3): Strakosha; Hysaj, Veseli, Ajeti, Agolli; Basha, Kukeli, Memushaj; Lila, Cikalleshi, Roshi.
Italy substitutes: Romagnoli, Darmian, Rugani, Gagliardini, Donnarumma, D’Ambrosio, Meret, Eder, Parolo, Petagna, Sansone, Verdi.
Italy XI (4-4-2): Buffon; Zappacosta, Barzagli, Bonucci, De Sciglio; Candreva, De Rossi, Verratti, Insigne; Belotti, Immobile.
There’s just over 15 minutes left to go until kick-off, so let’s have a look at how the two teams will be lining up this evening…
Tonight's game marks the 1000th appearance for Gianluigi Buffon and is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement for a remarkable goalkeeper. The 39-year-old is also set to become the most capped European player, surpassing both Iker Casillas and Vitalijs Astafjevs to win his 168th cap for Italy.
These two sides have only met one another of one previous occasion, with Italy winning 1-0 in a friendly back in November 2014. Despite struggling against Spain and Israel, Albania have proven themselves to be a talented side and a tough nut to crack, as was evident at last year’s European Championship. If they’re able to rediscover that form tonight, they could end up causing plenty of problems for their opponents.
After managing to kick-start their qualifying campaign with back-to-back wins against minnows Macedonia and Liechtenstein, it’s been a tough few months for Albania, who struggled in outings against Spain and Israel. A 3-0 defeat against the latter in a game that saw the Red and Blacks reduced to nine men was a particularly chastening experience, leaving them three points behind Israel in fourth place.
Italy’s last competitive outing saw them comfortably win 4-0 away to Liechtenstein to keep them level with Spain and just one point in front of an impressively in-form Israel side. A goalless draw against Germany in a friendly last November means that Gian Piero Ventura’s men are unbeaten in their last five games, and they’ll certainly be confident about their chances of leaving with a much-needed victory today.
With four games completed, Spain and Italy currently lead the way in Group G as they battle to secure a spot at next year’s World Cup in Russia. A record of three wins and a draw means that the Azzurri trail the one-time world champions only on goal difference, but they can move ahead of them and to the top of the table with another victory here this evening.
Good evening and welcome to our live text commentary of today’s World Cup 2018 qualifying game between Italy and Albania at the Stadio Renzo Barbera.