Albania kept their hopes of progression to the knockout rounds of Euro 2016 alive by eliminating Romania with a historic 1-0 Group A win in Lyon on Sunday.
Gianni De Biasi’s side had lost their opening games against Switzerland and hosts France but produced a superb performance to claim their first win at a major tournament.
Having scored just seven goals in qualifying for the competition, Albania showed why they have struggled in front of goal by spurning some gilt-edged opportunities in the first half.
Ermir Lenjani hit over from close range in the 23rd minute but Albania were not made to pay for that miss, Armando Sadiku netting what proved to be a decisive first tournament goal for De Biasi’s men.
Romania improved in the second half and only the crossbar prevented Florin Andone from levelling matters 14 minutes from time.
However, Romania could not restore parity and exit the tournament with just one point from three games, while Albania must now wait on results in other groups to see if the victory is enough to take them through to the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.
Ovidiu Hoban was the first to test Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha before being on the receiving end of a rash high tackle from Migjen Basha for which the midfielder was fortunate to only receive a yellow card.
Bogdan Stancu then threatened to score for the third straight game with a volley that stung the palms of Berisha.
For all Romania’s superiority in the early stages, Albania would have gone ahead if not for the profligacy of Lenjani, who blazed Andi Lila’s ball to the far post over with the goal at his mercy following a well-worked move.
Ledian Memushaj was the next to pass up an excellent opportunity for Albania, neglecting the other options in the box and firing straight at Romania goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu at the near post.
But Albania finally took the lead their first-half showing deserved when Sadiku capitalised on Tatarusanu’s decision to come off his line by converting from Memushaj’s right-wing delivery with an excellent looping header back across goal.
Romania brought on Lucian Sanmartean for Andrei Prepelita ahead of the second-half restart but their cause was dealt a blow when striker Denis Alibec was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Gabriel Torje.
Memushaj forced Tatarusanu into action with a shot that he could only parry as Albania continued to create the better openings.
Anghel Iordanescu’s Romania finished the stronger and were unfortunate to see Andone rattle the woodwork, but that proved to be their only real chance of the half, Albania holding on for a famous triumph and sparking scenes of jubilation among their supporters.
Key Opta stats:
- Albania defeated Romania for the first time since May 1948, ending a 13-game winless run against them.
– Romania have only kept one clean sheet in their 16 European Championship matches (0-0 v France at Euro 2008).
– Albania had more shots on target (3) in the first half of this game than they managed in their previous two matches combined (2).
– Lucian Sanmartean is the oldest player ever to make an appearance for Romania at the Euros (36y 98d).
– Ledian Memushaj created seven chances in the game – only Dimitri Payet (8) versus Romania has created more in a game at Euro 2016.