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Published: 15:54 | 11/6/16

Swiss edge Albania in Lens

Ten-man underdogs narrowly fall short in Group A

Switzerland produced a nervy 1-0 win over Albania in Group A at the European Championship.

Fabian Schar headed the favourites into an early lead at Stade Bollaert-Delelis, and the defender’s goal proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Albania responded brightly to going behind but were damaged prior to the interval by captain Lorik Cana’s dismissal for a second booking.

The 10 men, however, stayed very much in the game and, a few minutes from time, missed a glorious chance to steal a point through substitute Shkelzen Gashi.

Switzerland’s win leaves them second in the group, behind France on goals scored, following the hosts’ dramatic opening-night victory over Romania.

The Albanians got off to a dreadful start in Lens, as goalkeeper Etrit Berisha sprung from his line to attempt to meet Xherdan Shaqiri's fifth-minute corner, allowing Schar to nod Switzerland ahead.

Haris Seferovic wasted a fine opportunity to double the Swiss lead before Taulant Xhaka, facing his brother and Switzerland midfielder Granit, fired a decent chance to level off target.

Xhaka’s was a difficult chance but Armando Sadiku certainly should have equalised from a superb Alexander Soderlund pass on the half-hour. Sadiku, however, was put off by the excellent positioning of goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who blocked away the striker’s attempt.

The Albanians’ hopes were severely dampened before the break, as the grounded Cana prevented Seferovic from having a one-on-one with Berisha by deliberately handling the ball. Already booked for a foul on Blerim Dzemaili, Cana was shown a red card by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

Dzemaili fired the resultant free-kick against Berisha’s left-hand post before flashing an effort narrowly wide, as Switzerland failed to add to their advantage before the half-time whistle.

A mistake from Johan Djourou almost allowed Sadiku in at the beginning of the second period but the Swiss soon took over, with Berisha saving well from Seferovic.

Berisha denied Seferovic again with a quarter of the game remaining, advancing from his goal to stop the Eintracht Frankfurt striker’s attempt, following substitute Breel Embolo’s through-ball.

The underdogs responded bravely, as Sadiku struck an attempt from the corner of the six-yard box a yard or so wide, before Stephan Lichtsteiner was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty kick for a hold on the Switzerland-based Albania frontman.

Albania’s clearest opportunity arrived with a few minutes remaining but Gashi, clean through after beating the offside trap, saw his attempted finish superbly kept out by Sommer.

The Swiss clung on to secure three points, which could be enough to secure progress, even should they lose their next two games.

The Albanians, making the first appearance at a major tournament, will retain plenty of hope of progressing to the knockout phase in France, particularly with four of the six third-placed teams making it through to the second round.

A victory over either the hosts or Romania will most likely be necessary, however, and Gianni De Biasi’s men will have to face the French on Wednesday without their skipper, the suspended Cana.

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