Switzerland hold on against ten-man Albania in EURO 2016 Group A
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Albania 0-1 Switzerland
Fabian Schär's fifth-minute goal and some late heroics from Yann Sommer earned the Swiss victory after a first-half red card.
Article top media content
- Switzerland record only their second victory in ten EURO finals matches
- Albania play over half the match with ten men after captain Lorik Cana is dismissed
- Yann Sommer denies Shkëlzen Gashi and Armando Sadiku late on
- Fabian Schär heads Switzerland in front early on in Albania's first major finals game
- Albania's Taulant Xhaka up against his brother, Switzerland midfielder Granit
Switzerland made a winning start to UEFA EURO 2016 but the ten men of Albania gave them an almighty scare in the teams' first Group A outing.
The match was only five minutes old when the Nati capped a bright start with the only goal, Fabian Schär rising to head in Xherdan Shaqiri's corner.
The margin of victory looked set to be greater when Lorik Cana received a second yellow card nine minutes before half-time, but Albania dug in well and by the final whistle the Swiss were hanging on.
Albania will look back on several missed chances to cap their finals debut in style, most notably for Armando Sadiku. He squandered a golden opportunity before Cana's dismissal when a trademark Elseid Hysaj long ball sent him one-on-one with Yann Sommer.
The keeper repeated the feat in the closing stages as Albania, spirited along by their noisy fans, threw everything at Switzerland. Then, with three minutes left, came the best chance of all but Shkëlzen Gashi, with time and space, could not find a way past Sommer.
Switzerland got the win they so desired. They have yet to make it through the group stage in three finals appearances. After holding on here, they may not get a better opportunity.
Man of the match: Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)
"It was special for my family here with two brothers playing on different sides," said Xhaka. "It was great for us, too – if perhaps a bit more special for me than him." The Switzerland midfielder created three chances and made 100 accurate passes, 25 of which came in the attacking third. He also won five aerial duels and three tackles.
Brothers in arms
For the first time in a EURO match, brothers lined up against each other. Gianni De Biasi added more spice by starting Taulant Xhaka on the right rather than his usual central role, placing him in direct opposition to younger brother Granit. There was certainly added needle, with extra effort tangible whenever they clashed – like most siblings. But love conquered all with a firm embrace at full time: a nice end for their torn parents.
United we stand
Five of Switzerland's starting XI were either from Kosovar-Albanian families or of Albanian extraction, and four of Albania's side were born or brought up in Switzerland. Whisper it, but a few Albanians in the stands were seen mouthing the Swiss anthem before delivering their own at full gusto. 'United we stand' said a banner in the Albania end. It seemed fitting for two teams so interlinked.
Opening night nerves?
It was a decidedly nervy start by Albania, missing tackles and headers, and struggling to find their shape. Not so Switzerland: Sommer almost took out a passing helicopter with the force of one clearance and further forward they were similarly sure-footed and within a blink of an eye they led. From then on Albania were playing catch-up.
Reporters' views from the Stade Bollaert-Delelis
Matthew Howarth, Switzerland (@UEFAcomMattH)
Switzerland fully deserved the three points in Lens, but their failure to kill the game off in the second half almost came back to haunt them. Substitute Gashi very nearly salvaged an unlikely point for Albania in the dying stages, but a draw would not have been a fair reflection of the Nati's dominance at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
Fatjon Pandovski, Albania (@UEFAcomTonyP)
It is a case of what might have been for Gianni De Biasi's side. They froze early on and their Achilles heel was exposed with a goal from a corner – there's a real defensive weakness from set pieces. But there are so many positives too. For 54 minutes Albania were down to ten men and trailing 1-0 yet they could still have equalised. They might even have won it!
Albania: Berisha; Agolli, Mavraj, Cana (c), Hysaj; Taulant Xhaka (Kaçe 62), Kukeli, Abrashi; Lenjani, Sadiku (Gashi 82), Roshi (Cikalleshi 74)
Substitutes: Shehi, Hoxha, Lila, Veseli, Basha, Memushaj, Aliji, Ajeti, Balaj
Coach: Gianni De Biasi
Switzerland: Sommer; Rodríguez, Djourou, Schär, Lichtsteiner (c); Mehmedi (Embolo 62), Granit Xhaka, Džemaili (Frei 76), Behrami, Shaqiri (Fernandes 88); Seferović
Substitutes: Hitz, Bürki, Moubandje, Elvedi, Von Bergen, Lang, Zakaria, Tarashaj, Derdiyok
Coach: Vladimir Petković
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)