Switzerland beat 10-man Albania 1-0 in their EURO 2016 Group A opener in Lens on Saturday.
Fabian Schar’s early header was the difference, as the Swiss huffed and puffed but couldn’t add more goals despite Albania’s captain Lorik Cana being sent off in the 36th minute.
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In the battle of the Xhaka brothers — Granit played for Switzerland and Taulant started for Albania — the Swiss now sit second in Group A, level on three points with France after they beat Romania on Friday in the opening game of the tournament.
On Saturday the Swiss were handed in the fifth minute as Albanian goalkeeper Etrit Berisha came rushing off his line to punch away a corner but got nowhere near the ball and Schar headed home. 1-0.
Albania recovered well from that early setback and Armando Sadiku was set clean through but Yann Sommer saved superbly with his legs to keep the score level.
Cana was then sent off before half time for a blatant handball on the edge of the box as he slipped and then denied the Swiss a chance to go clean through. Giving up an early goal from a set piece and having your captain sent off before half time is not the way to start your first-ever major tournament. From the free kick Cana gave away, Blerim Dzemaili struck the post with a free kick as Albania were hanging on.
Switzerland came flying out of the traps in the second half too but Berisha made plenty of key saves to try and atone for his earlier error.
Late on Albania found a second wind and pushed hard for an equalizer as Sadiku smashed an effort into the side-netting and Colorado Rapids striker Shkelzen Gashi went clean through but Sommer came up big again to deny him. The minnows couldn’t find a way through after rallying impressively and the Swiss held on for an important yet unconvincing victory to open their EURO 2016 campaign.
Switzerland face Romania next, while Albania take on hosts France.