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Salihi strike secures victory for Albania

Albania 1-0 Belarus
A goal from Hamdi Salihi capped a fine home performance and enabled Josip Kuže's side to join their opponents on eight points.

Hamdi Salihi scored Albania's winner against Belarus
Hamdi Salihi scored Albania's winner against Belarus ©Getty Images

Albania joined Belarus on eight points in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group D thanks to a Hamdi Salihi goal in Tirana.

The SK Rapid Wien striker capitalised on a mistake in the Belarus defence to score the only goal of the game on 62 minutes. Albania also hit the frame of Sergei Veremko's goal on two occasions and now goal difference alone separates the teams lying second and third in the section, four points adrift of Group D giants France.

Having come in for some severe criticism in the local media in the days leading up to the match, midfielders Ervin Skela and Altin Lala silenced their detractors, providing a superb platform for Salihi and his strike partner Erjon Bogdani. Lorik Cana hit the crossbar from a free-kick before half-time, and there was little let-up in the pressure after the interval.

Veremko saved from Salihi on 50 minutes and kept out Ansi Agolli's long-range effort with his legs soon after. Salihi's goal confirmed Albania's ascendance, but while substitute Aleksandr Bychenok tested home goalkeeper Samir Ujkani from distance, the hosts kept coming, with Salihi hitting the post after going through on goal. Vyacheslav Hleb and Sergei Kislyak had chances at the other end, but nothing to trouble Ujkani.