Italy head coach Antonio Conte said he was satisfied with their victory on Thursday, despite only managing to beat Malta 1-0 at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
The Azzurri overcame their tiny Mediterranean neighbours thanks to a 69th-minute goal from Southampton striker Graziano Pelle, taking them top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group H.
"The only thing that mattered was to win and unfortunately when you don't make the most of all the chances created, the result remains in the balance," Conte told Rai Sport.
"Nobody gives you anything here. Playing against Azerbaijan and Malta is tough, as shown by Croatia today. Football is evolving everywhere and there's no such thing as a team you just walk over."
Italy's victory, along with Croatia's goalless draw against Azerbaijan, sent the 2006 World Cup winners one point above the Croatians, and two above Norway, in the tussle for direct qualification to next year's European Championships.
"We won, it's a balanced group that we are now top of and hope to get another victory against Bulgaria," Conte concluded, with Italy facing the Bulgarians at Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo on Sunday.