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Wednesday March 3, 2010 Regular Finished Qemal Stafa Stadium

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Albania

  • Skela 26’

Northern Ireland

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  1. N Ireland fall in Albania

    N Ireland fall in Albania

    Only a moment of magic from Ervin Skela enlivened a turgid match in Tirana, leading Albania to a 1-0 victory against Northern Ireland. More

  • Live Commentary

    Time:90'
    • Albania
    • Northern Ireland
    • 90+3' All over here, and the Albanians have recorded a home win. It took one brilliant strike to make the difference - Skela's free-kick midway through the first half. NI had a weakened side, but turned in a desperate performance.
    • 90+2' Bakaj's cross is poor, and McGivern's clearance uncertain. Northern Ireland try to move forward.
    • 90+1' Albania win a free-kick in the NI half. They are in no rush to take it, Bakaj takes an eternity to line it up, before it goes for a corner.
    • 90' The game is petering out as full time approaches. Nobody chances for either side, just scrappy play in the midfield.
    • 88' Northern Ireland look for a way forward, but without great success. Vangjeli breaks up this move, and Hidi takes a ponderous approach towards the resulting free-kick.
    • 87' McCann cracks a low shot through a wall of players, but it's one of his own men, Patterson, who blocks the ball's path.
    • 86' Kapllani earns himself an immediate yellow card for a poor and late challenge on McGivern.
    • 85' Hidi heaves it forward after taking a moment to gathering himself. The referee blows his whistle, which allows a sub. Kapllani is coming on for Albania, Bulku going off.
    • 84' Davis has a free-kick, which is lofted in hope rather than expectation towards the penalty area.
    • 82' Albania's purposeful running down the left comes to an abrupt halt when Curri clatters into Little.
    • 81' Skela, the goalscorer, comes off - replaced by Vila
    • 80' The resulting corner is harmless. The Northern Irish travelling fans - and there are a few - are making themselves heard.
    • 79' Debatik Curri hits a powerful shot from long range, takes a touch and goes out for a corner.
    • 78' Skela plays a ball wide to Bulku. He creates space, plays a super ball in that's just a fraction too high.
    • 77' Patterson takes a touch past the last defender, and goes down, but there's no interest from the referee in awarding a free-kick.
    • 76' Going for a shot, the free-kick sails narrowly - but harmlessly - over the Albanian goal.
    • 75' Vangjeli has a throw-in, trying to send his side up forward. For once, the Northern Irish are looking the more dangerous side. McCann stands over another free-kick
    • 73' So nearly the equaliser. It falls to Craigin, who controls and smashes the ball into the post. The rebound falls to Healy who forces a key save from Hidi.
    • 72' Rory Patterson, the Northern Irish debutant, has won a corner.
    • 71' Healy has a moment for NI, blasting a shot from wide. It is blocked and the resulting corner nearly creates a chance for the visitors.
    • 71' More subs: Taylor off for Tuffey.
    • 70' Salahi tries fancy footwork in the penalty area to ease past the two defenders covering him. Every time he weaves it looks like the chance will open up in front of him, but it never does.
    • 69' Great pace from Duro as he surges down the right. He beats one, but then loses out. Northern Ireland gift the ball back, and the cross leads to a powerful Cana header, Taylor had it covered though.
    • 67' Dean Shiels runs quickly with the ball, but loses the ball. Cana is quickly in control in the midfield, playing a couple of nice passes out wide.
    • 66' Messy work from Hidi as the ball si cleared forward. He scuffs it away.
    • 64' Skela has all the time in the world, but his lay-off for Bulku leads to a wasted shot.
    • 63' Duro works hard in the midfield, releasing Lila to make a cross. It doesn't quite pan out, and after a couple of minutes on the sidelines, Albania can make some changse. Double subsitution for Albania - Cana and Hyka to come on, replacing Lala and Angolli. Both have had good games.
    • 61' Northern Ireland go close - the corner is met by Craigin, whose header beats Hidi but flicks the top of the bar as it goes out of play.
    • 60' Corner for Northern Ireland. What can mcCann deliver?
    • 59' Skela throws it in for Albania, Lala plays it around until Angolli tries a long range effort which only narrowly goes over the bar.
    • 58' Duro handballs, falsely assuming he'd won a free-kick from McGivern's crude challenge.
    • 57' The ball from McCann not good enough. There's a second chance from a cross on the right, which is cleared on the right for a throw. When that too is cleared, Albania ease their way out of trouble.
    • 56' Northern Ireland playing in Albania's half for a while. McCann has a chance to send in a free-kick.
    • 55' Healy gives away a free-kick, and the referee wants to talk to both he and Angolli, who was caught in the challenge. The atmosphere is very subdued in the stadium.
    • 53' Taylor claims the ball. It's a break from the lumbering long-ball game which Northern Ireland are playing, and for inexplicable reasons Albania now seem to be copying...
    • 51' Desperately poor ball from Davis from the resulting free-kick. The first defender drills it away with ease.
    • 50' Nasty collision between Lila and McGivern. Both on the floor for some time nursing their injuries. When they finally stand, Lila is given a booking for the original tackle.
    • 49' Shiels is on for NI.
    • 48' Albania get a throw deep in their own half, which they nearly give away. Corry Evans lunges for the ball and gives away a free-kick on the outside of their own box.
    • 47' Better start from NI, some passes exchanged between davis and the defence. Even if there is no drive forward, it's an improvement on the first half.
    • 46' We're back in play in Tirana. Lila bursts forward for Albania, but his pass is intercepted and Evans gets his first touch.
    • - Salihi comes on for Albania for Bogdani. Corry Evans plays his second game, having turned out for the U21s in San Marino yesterday. He replaces McGinn.
    • - HALF TIME: Albania lead Northern Ireland in Tirana. The goal was something special, but the rest of the game has been hard work. Northern Ireland have barely strung two passes together, and have yet to have a clear chance on goal. Albania have not been excellent, but they've been much the better side, and it will be up to Nigel Worthington to change things up come the second half.
    • 45' O'Connor and Davis grapple for the ball on the edge of the Albanian penalty area but there is no incisiveness. Albania's clearance is the last action of a slow first half.
    • 44' Another chance for Albania, Duro spreads it to Lala in the box, who twists and turns on the right hand side, looking for a pass or a shot. It's a bit of both, and nobody from either side gets near it as it flashes by the post.
    • 43' Duro drives Albania on, allowing Angolli a rasping shot.
    • 42' A cross from the right comes to Angolli. He chests it down, but still has time to spare. His shot from 10 yards goes wide of the far post, and that was a decent chance for a second goal.
    • 41' Bogdani has caused lots of problems for the Northern Irish defenders without having much of an end product.
    • 40' Another speculative balls is lofted from the halfway line - this time from McGinn. Hidi claims and Albania come forward, and Taylor and McGivern have to combine to clear the danger.
    • 39' It's not all doom and gloom for Northern Ireland fans, however - Zidan's goal means Egypt have just taken the lead against the English at Wembley...
    • 38' Little looks for an option from an attacking throw-in. He tries a cross, which is smoothly headed back to the keeper.
    • 37' O'Connor whips a free-kick in - for a moment the ball sits in the box, claimed by nobody, but it is an Albanian boot which hoofs it out of danger.
    • 36' Northern Ireland looking sharper in defence now, but have not shown anything in attack.
    • 35' Lila feeds Duro, but McCartney deals with the run comfortably.
    • 33' Lila working hard on the right hand flank for Albania, but the defence seems to be much more alert to his runs now.
    • 32' The pitch has started to scuff a bit more - when balls are played along the ground, especially in the middle, the bobbling is quite obvious. Northern Ireland haven't adapted to it at all.
    • 31' Clumsy tackle on O'Connor from Duro wins a free-kick for NI - the ball soon returns to Albania, who try to build through Dallku and Angolli.
    • 30' Lafferty throws the ball back to Hidi, and he clears it long.
    • 29' The game has returned to the midfield, with neither side advancing too far into each other's half. The Northern Irish are trying to string a few passes together through Davis and McCann, but the game pauses for a look at Angolli, who's gone down after a tackle.
    • 27' McGivern looks for an option from a throw-in, but resigns himself to giving it back to Taylor. Albania in control.
    • 26' Nigel Worthington will be looking for a reaction from his side, but not the barge from Lafferty which gives Albania another free-kick, this time on the half-way line.
    • 25' GOAL ALBANIA! Skela curls in the free-kick for his 11th international goal, and he hit it sweetly. Nothing more than the Albanians deserved, but a top strike to put the hosts in front.
    • 23' Skela tries to run with the ball into the Northern Irish penalty area, and then Bulku shortly afterwards. The clearances keep coming, but as Bodani tries his luck, he is brought down for a free-kick from 25 yards, directly in front of goal.
    • 22' Yellow card for O'Connor for his challenge on Lala. Both the Northern Irishman and the Albanian look underwhelmed by each other.
    • 21' McCann has a free-kick - the first header is Northern Irish, but the flick-on leads nowhere, and Albania settle back on to the ball. Skela orchestrating the midfield.
    • 20' Skela plays one of those tormenting crosses from the free-kick - always threatening, and eventually Taylor has to tip it over for a corner. Dangerous stuff - unlike the corner, which goes straight out of play.
    • 19' First hint of a chance for Northern Ireland - a shot trickles through from the outside of the box and Hidi gathers it comfortably. Craigan gives away a free-kick at the other end for a body check.
    • 18' Lala and Bulku stroke it comfortably in the midfield, biding their time until they pick up Bogdanihe holds it up for Skela who cracks a lowish shot, which only McCartney blocks.
    • 17' Duro has a glorious chance after Bogdani's great work on the right. His shot is skied, but perhaps credit is due to McGivern who puts him under pressure as eh comes to take the shot.
    • 16' Bulku, Bogdani and Duro combine, but the shot is a speculative long distance volley from which they win a corner. Northern Ireland clear.
    • 14' Albania stroke the ball comfortably around until Vangjelli tries a cross, which goes out on the full for a goal kick.
    • 13' The pace has been lesiurely, but Albania have had all the possession so far. McGivern and McCann are doing the defensive work, restricting Albania to working from distance. Angolli tries a shot from all of 30 yards - a good hit, but always a couple of yards wide.
    • 12' Some nice interplay from the Albanians is broken up by a handball from Lila. Northern Ireland have a free-kick, but McGivern's ball forward soon comes back.
    • 11' Angolli plays a teasing cross first time into the penalty area, which floats over Taylor's head, towards Bogdani, but ultimately out of play for a goal kick.
    • 9' Northern Ireland have some possession, but opt for the long ball again. McGinn takes it into the corner and loses it. When Albania break Bulku unleashes a fierce strike - blocked a couple of yards away.
    • 8' Albania work nicely down the right hand side with Duro and Lala. The ball comes to Bogdani, whose touch lets him down completely in the penalty area.
    • 7' Albania have a throw on the right. Skela plays it forward aimlessly, and McCartney hoofs forward looking for Lafferty.
    • 5' The hosts have settled the better. Angolli has been lively on the left. Hidi takes a moment now to let his defenders move forward.
    • 3' Lafferty dumped comprehensively off the ball by two Albanian defenders. Albania move upfield, and a tasty cross gets a faint touch from Bogdani and forces Taylor to react.
    • 2' Skela takes a free-kick from the right whcih is too low and cleared. The Albanians work down the right and a cross comes in which Taylor claims.
    • 1' We're under way. There's a touch for Hidi in the Albanian goal. The pitch is playing just about OK, but the ball hardly zipping along the deck.
    • - By my reckoning, that's only five of the players who started in Northern Ireland's last game against Serbia in the first eleven tonight. Still, Healy will be pleased to be back, and looking to end his goal drought for NI.
    • - The national anthems are being sung, and we can give you the team news: Albania: Hidi, Lila, Dallku, Vangjeli, Angolli, Lala, Curri, Bulku, Duro, Skela, Bogdani Subs: Beqaj, Cana, Kapllani, Hyka, Bakaj, Vila, Salihi Northern Ireland: Taylor, Little, McGivern, McCartney, Craigan, O'Connor, McGinn, Davis, Healy, Lafferty, McCann Subs: Tuffey, Carson, Kirk, Shiels, Patterson, Evans
    • - The pitch at the Qemal Stafa is something to behold. They were wondering if the game would take place yesterday, so waterlogged was the pitch, and looking at it now it's not hard to see why. Let's just say that on first appearances, it's going to be an evening for the long ball.
    • - There was disappointment this week for Northern Ireland as Shane Duffy, the 18-year-old Everton centre-half, has announced that after representing Northern Ireland from U16 through to U21 and B Levels, he would rather be considered for selection for the Republic.
    • - That will have some consequences for their line-up tonight. Two interesting names to look out for: Corry Evans, brother of Manchester United's Jonny, also on the books at Old Trafford, and up front Rory Patterson - the Coleraine striker who has been scoring freely for his club all year.
    • - Northern Ireland are travelling to Albania with what Harry Redknapp might describe as 'the bare bones' of a squad. Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird and Damien Johnson were rested, Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt and Jonny Evans are injured, and Warren Feeney is staying with his wife as she is due to give birth.
    • - That was the only time the Albanians have beaten the Northern Irish - in their other seven meetings, NI have 5 wins and 2 draws.
    • - Albania and Northern Ireland are meeting for the first time in 13 years - back in September 1997 Albania won 1-0, a result that ended the tenure of Northern Ireland's then-manager Brian Horton.
    • - Northern Ireland, on the other hand, were in with a chance for much of their qualifying campaign. They eventually finished fourth in their group, but performed admirably throughout. On ranking (they are 40th in the world), you might anticipate an away victory, but though they've shown resilience on recent travels they have not won on the road since beating San Marino 13 months ago...
    • - Things have been less good for Albania of late, though - they are ranked 91st in the world, and struggled in a tough World Cup qualifying group featuring Denmark, Portugal and Sweden. Though they managed draws with each of those sides, they were only able to beat Malta, and never threatened to qualify for South Africa.
    • - "FORCA SHQIPERI" shouts Andi in the comments section underneath - roughly translated (I'm guessing) - come on, Albania! The Albanians can fill their 19,500 seater stadium and create an intimidating arena for visitors - Russia, Sweden and Greece have been defeated here in the last decade.
    • - The Qemal Stafa Stadium in Tirana, home of the Albanian national football team, welcomes Northern Ireland for a friendly match, the first for either side in 2010. With no World Cup on the horizon for host or visitors, this is a chance for both teams to shape their preparations for the European Championship qualifiers which will begin later in the year. Hope you'll enjoy following the game with us here.
  • Summary

    • 73' So nearly the equaliser. It falls to Craigin, who controls and smashes the ball into the post. The rebound falls to Healy who forces a key save from Hidi.
    • 61' Northern Ireland go close - the corner is met by Craigin, whose header beats Hidi but flicks the top of the bar as it goes out of play.
    • 25' GOAL ALBANIA! Skela curls in the free-kick for his 11th international goal, and he hit it sweetly. Nothing more than the Albanians deserved, but a top strike to put the hosts in front.

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