by LIAM RICHNER
Albania 0-1 Switzerland, Group A
Albania verses Switzerland for many may sound a boring affair, but when the draw was made back in December, fans of both countries were licking their lips with anticipation.
Both national sides feature players which could have played for either country. And for the first time in European Championships history, two brothers will be facing off against each other in Granit and Taulant Xhaka. So there was a expectancy for rash challenges and tempers to flair.
But Albania’s debut at the European Championship finals ended in defeat after a Fabian Schar header early on won the game for Switzerland.
Schar rose highest to meet Switzerland’s very first corner of the game on five minutes after a bright start from the team in white.
Lorik Cana, Albania’s captain, saw red for two cynical challenges in the first 45 minutes. Firstly, he left a foot in late on Blerim Dzemaili, before hand balling after a slip would have put Haris Seferovic through on goal.
Despite their slow start, Albania grew into the game and were denied by a smart Yann Sommer save after Armando Sadiku was put through on goal.
Dzemaili smashed a free kick against the post for the Swiss just before half time, but they couldn’t make the extra man count as Albania continued to look for a precious equaliser.
Seferovic missed a handful of chances in the second half but the second half didn’t meet the intensity of the first 45 minutes and chances were difficult to find.
Albania came close to scoring again in the 75th minute, but Sadiku could only strike the ball into the side netting.
The tournament debutants felt they should of had a penalty in the final ten minutes after Ermir Lenjani was seen to be pulled to the ground by Switzerland captain Stephan Lichsteiner.
Shkëlzen Gashi had the best chance for the Albanians after a clever through ball put him through one on one with Sommer, but the striker hit the ball straight at the Monchengladbach stopper.
The sending off proved to be a killer blow as Albania dictated the majority of play, especially in the second half. What they lacked where players in the box and because of the reduced numbers, they were unable to create any real chance.
Switzerland will need to improve on their finishing. Two or three times they had the chances to put the game to bed through the counter attack, but they spurned any goal threat and with France and Romania to come, that needs to be sorted out.