Albania are unbeaten in eight games and sit top of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group D after Klodian Duro's equalising goal in first-half added time earned the hosts a draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Vedad Ibišević had given the visitors hope of victory with a 21st-minute goal but Albania raised their game and Duro's free-kick ensured a point for a side whose coach Josip Kuže was unable to attend after suffering a stroke last week. Albania lead Belarus on goals scored, with Bosnia and Herzegovina a point behind, although either France or Romania could overtake all three with a win when they meet in Paris on Saturday.
The visitors, who beat Luxembourg but lost to France last month, started the stronger with Miralem Pjanić and Ibišević looking dangerous, though Edin Džeko was being kept quiet. It was Ibišević that opened the scoring, turning in a Mensur Mujdža cross. That was the cue for Albania to raise their game. The home midfield pushed forward, and Hamdi Salihi hit the post and Erion Bogdani also went close. The equaliser eventually came on the stroke of half-time, Duro sending in a free-kick from the edge of the box.
Both teams had chances in the second half, with Pjanić hitting the crossbar with two free-kicks after 64 and 88 minutes. At the other end Salihi and Duro had efforts blocked though Albania sat back late on to ensure a point on a day when retiring former international Fatmir Vata was honoured and the Albanian Football Association (FSHF) turned 80 – on the 48th birthday of its president, Armand Duka.
Stand-in Albania coach Džemal Mustedanagić, born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, held the scarf worn by Kuže in last month's draw with Romania and defeat of Luxembourg. His side visit Belarus on Tuesday, and Mustedanagić said: "This was a game we had to play for [Kuže] and we did. It was a good result and we are happy." Bosnia and Herzegovina return to group action at home to Romania on 26 March.
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