gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); Italy Overcomes Early Shock to Defeat Albania 2-1 in Euro 2024 Opener – The Zimbabwe Mail

Italy Overcomes Early Shock to Defeat Albania 2-1 in Euro 2024 Opener

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Dortmund, Germany – Italy’s European Championship title defense got off to a rocky start as they conceded a goal just 23 seconds into their opener against Albania, making it the fastest goal in the tournament’s 64-year history.

However, the Azzurri quickly recovered to secure a 2-1 victory in Dortmund on Saturday, turning the tide in an atmospheric Adriatic derby that initially threatened an upset.

Nedim Bajrami ignited the pro-Albanian crowd at Westfalenstadion by intercepting a throw-in from Italy’s left-back Federico Dimarco. Bajrami took a touch and smashed a rising shot inside the near post, giving Albania an early lead and creating a historic moment.

Despite the shock, Italy regrouped swiftly. Within 16 minutes, the Azzurri had overturned the deficit. Alessandro Bastoni headed in a cross from Lorenzo Pellegrini in the 11th minute to equalize. Nicolo Barella then struck a swerving first-time shot from the edge of the area to put Italy ahead.

Barella was one of five players from the team that triumphed over England in the 2021 European Championship final. The pressure was on Luciano Spalletti’s revamped squad to win their opener, given that Group B also includes formidable opponents like three-time champion Spain and 2022 World Cup semifinalist Croatia. Spain had earlier defeated Croatia 3-0 on Saturday.

Bajrami’s goal, the quickest in the tournament’s history, eclipsed the previous record of 67 seconds set by Russia’s Dmitri Kirichenko in 2004. However, Italy dominated the match thereafter, controlling possession and silencing the jeers and boos from the Albanian supporters.

“They showed there was a gulf in class by playing good football … we played the game the right way,” said Italy coach Luciano Spalletti. “The scoreline doesn’t reflect the difference between the two teams.”

Since taking over last August, Spalletti has led Italy to just one loss in 12 matches. He was brought in to restore national pride after Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for a second consecutive time, following his departure from Napoli after their Italian league triumph.

Italy, seeking a record-tying third European Championship title, looked at home in the competition despite the early scare. Albania, making its second appearance at a European Championship and coached by former Barcelona and Arsenal defender Sylvinho, nearly snatched a draw in stoppage time. Rey Manaj’s deft chip deflected just wide off the back of Italy’s goalkeeper and captain, Gianluigi Donnarumma.

In a bizarre incident, a fan ran onto the field during the closing moments, evading stewards before being apprehended. The rare attack by Albania moments later underlined the drama of the match but ultimately, Italy held firm to secure the win.

Italy will next face Spain, while Albania will look to bounce back against Croatia, setting the stage for another round of thrilling encounters in Group B.

Source: AP