Italy comfortably beat Albania 2-0 in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier to keep the pace with Spain

Apart from a couple of opportunities, Albania never really threatened Gian Piero Ventura’s side and the hosts eased to a victory to keep the pace with Spain, who thrashed Israel 4-1 in their Group G fixture.

After naming a weakened side, Italy had to rely on Daniele De Rossi’s 12th-minute penalty and Ciro Immobile’s second-half header to win the match but Italy weren’t particularly impressive during the match.

It was still a routine victory for the Azzurri and it also allowed some of their fringe players a chance to get a run out. Ventura will be hoping for better performances from his side in the future but will have been satisfied with the three points last night. We take a look at the key talking points from the match.

Albania’s profligacy cost them

Albania had a couple of very good opportunities early on, with the first opportunity presenting itself after some sloppy defending, only for Sokol Cikalleshi to completely miss the target from inside the area.

Moments later, Odise Roshi had another effort for the visitors, but yet again the Albanian completely failed to test Gianluigi Buffon. Both misses proved very costly as Albania could have set up shop if they had taken the lead.

Italy then learnt from their mistakes and the opportunity for an upset was gone. The Albanians did not manage to create anything of note after those two chances and Italy took complete control of the game.

Irresponsible and Unnecessary Flares and fireworks

Following the referee’s decision to award Italy a penalty, the Albanian fans immediately began throwing flares onto the pitch. Despite De Rossi having to wait before dispatching his penalty, things got worse in the second half.

An announcement was made at Palermo’s Renzo Barbera stadium warning fans that their team could face sanctions if they continued and it had to be repeated, but that only sparked the lighting of more flares which forced the players off the field.

One firework even exploded near a steward and he was taken away for assessment but thankfully he was not injured. Following Albania captain Ansi Agolli’s pleas to the crowd, play resumed but it was an unfortunate incident that was both irresponsible and dangerous.

PALERMO, ITALY - MARCH 24: Albania's supporters throw smoke bombs and flares during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Italy and Albania at Stadio Renzo Barbera on March 24, 2017 in Palermo, . (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

PALERMO, ITALY – MARCH 24: Albania’s supporters throw smoke bombs and flares during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Italy and Albania at Stadio Renzo Barbera on March 24, 2017 in Palermo. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Italy looked rusty but a few players impressed

Gian Piero Ventura rang in the changes for last night’s fixture and a mixture of injuries as well as his decision to play fringe players resulted in a slightly disjointed performance from the Italians in Palermo.

That showed in the opening stages when Italy looked nervy and despite later taking control of the game, the Italians did not look particularly dangerous or as solid as they have been in the last few fixtures.

Despite this, there were some encouraging performances from the Italians – particularly from Davide Zappacosta who was a constant thorn in Albania’s side in just his third appearance for the national side.

Gianluigi Buffon cements his place as an Italian legend

Gianluigi Buffon completed his 1000th professional game last night and it was perfectly fitting that he kept a clean sheet. The 39-year old is an adored figure in football thanks to his personality and outgoing nature and he has had a glittering career.

Buffon remains the world’s most expensive goalkeeper despite moving to Juventus all the way back in 2001 and the Italian still looks like he can play at the top level for several years despite his age.

Buffon will go down in history as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and is already a legend to Italians and Juventus supporters. Last night’s milestone was a special one.

PALERMO, ITALY - MARCH 24: Gianluigi Buffon of Italy with a team jersey celebrating his 1000 career appearances with CEO of Italian Football Association Michele Uva after the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Italy and Albania at Stadio Renzo Barbera on March 24, 2017 in Palermo, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

PALERMO, ITALY – MARCH 24: Gianluigi Buffon of Italy with a team jersey celebrating his 1000 career appearances with CEO of Italian Football Association Michele Uva after the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Italy and Albania at Stadio Renzo Barbera on March 24, 2017 in Palermo, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

The race for top spot in Group G will be exciting

Italy and Spain are both tied on points in Group G with 13 points, although the Spaniards have a big advantage on goal difference. Neither side looks like they will slip up and drop points to other teams and both remain unbeaten in their group.

It is very likely that the victor of the match between Spain and Italy on 2nd September will determine the winner of Group G and this will make it a hugely exciting fixture for both neutrals as well as the supporters of both countries.