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EURO2016: Switzerland hold off gallant 10-man Albania

The second game of Euro2016 has seen Switzerland scrape past a ten-man Albania 1-0.

In an exciting contest in Lens, Switzerland went ahead early through a headed goal from defender Fabian Schar to record his country's second win in 10 Euro attempts.

Also in the first half, Albania captain Lorik Cana was shown a second yellow card before the break to reduce his side to ten men, which ultimately saw Switzerland do enough to maintain their lead in the face of a brave and bold display from the Albanians in the second half.

A new chapter in an emerging rivalry between these two sides was being written prior to kick-off with confirmation that brothers Taulant Xhaka (FC Basel) of Albania and Granit Xhaka (new Arsenal signing) of Switzerland would be lining up for their respective countries. It was massively monumental in the fact that it was the first time in Euro history that siblings have played simultaneously on opposing sides.

With the game underway, Switzerland were lively early and were rewarded for their enthusiasm with the opening goal after just five minutes. Hoffenheim defender Fabian Schar headed home following a corner from Xherdan Shaqiri which enticed Albania's goalkeeper, Etrit Belisha, hopelessly off his line.

Just a few minutes after scoring, Schar would also be shown the first yellow card of the contest as he stamped his influence on the game.

Albania were exhibiting some nerves on the Euro stage but would soon settle as Taulant Xhaka tried to show his brother up as he linked up well with a teammate and shot wide of the Swiss goal in the 25th minute.

Despite managing just seven goals in qualifying, Albania were looking promising in attack in the first half with striker Armando Sadiku able to get one on one with the keeper with 30 minutes played and only being denied a goal by a fine save from Swiss gloveman Yann Sommer.

After being put on the back foot by Albania, Switzerland would end the first half well and truly on top. Albania skipper Cana was shown his second yellow card within 15 minutes for a flagrant handball on the edge of the box to reduce his side to just ten men.

Switzerland hit the woodwork through Blerim Dzemaili from the resulting free-kick but entered half-time with the game firmly in their grasp.

Down both a player and a goal, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Albania in the second half, but it was a battle Gianni De Biasi's charges were willing to fight.

Opening up the Swiss defence twice early in the second half, Albania showed real endeavour going forward and were able to hang on at the back, and subsequently Berisha made a fine one-on-one save to deny the dangerous Haris Seferovic in the 69th minute to keep the Albanians in the contest.

Albania went close to levelling the game on 76 minutes when Sadiku's strike found the wrong side of the net from close range.

Switzerland were looking good on the ball but couldn't deliver a killer ball, nor final blow.

Unfortunately for Albania they too were lacking a killing edge in front of goal with Shkelzen Gashi unable to capitalise after finding himself eye-to-eye with Sommer with five minutes to play.

That was to be the last big chance of the game with Switzerland able to hold on for a precious victory as a valiant Albania walk away from their first Euro game empty handed.

Tonight's winners will now face Romania on Thursday while Albania will tackle their hosts France on the same day.


EURO2016 - Group A

Switzerland: 1 (Fabian Schar 5')
Albania: 0 (red card: Lorik Cana 37')
Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens - 38,000

Joshua Thomas
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Joshua Thomas

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