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Thursday, February 19, 2004 

Albania 2-1 Sweden

Second-half goals from Ervin Skela and Ardian Aliaj earned Albania an impressive victory over Sweden in Tirana tonight as the home side battled back to cancel out Stefan Selakovic's opener for the UEFA EURO 2004™ hopefuls.

Aliaj curled in a free-kick on 75 minutes to cap a brave fightback by Albania and inflict a third straight friendly defeat on a Swedish side weakened by injuries and illness.

Despite their failure to reach EURO 2004™, the home side had impressed during qualifying, notably with their 3-1 win over Russia, and they were brimming with confidence again here. Edvin Murati, Alban Bushi and Klodian Duro in particular ensured Sweden's new-look defence, in which SC Heerenveen defender Petter Hansson was winning just his second cap two years after making his debut, were given little time to settle.

It was Sweden, however, who created the first real chance, and the Albania goalkeeper Fotaq Strakosha did well to beat out Kim Källström's close-range header on 19 minutes. Just as Sweden appeared to be assuming control, Albania came close on 27 minutes. Bushi's clever touch on the edge of the area put Atlin Rraklli through, but the striker hurried his shot which bounced across goal and then away to safety.

The game was beginning to open up and on 38 minutes Selakovic's shot was turned away by Strakosha who was soon back in the action early in the second half to block from Mikael Nilsson. Strakosha was beaten moments later, however, when he failed to hold Teddy Lucic's powerful shot, allowing Selakovic to turn in the rebound and put Sweden ahead on 49 minutes.

Igli Tare brought the home crowd back into the match on 56 minutes when he rose to flash a header narrowly wide, but soon after Sweden should have made sure of the victory. Johan Elmander's low shot was spilled by Strakosha and from the rebound Selakovic hit the post. The ball then fell to Källström who shot over from eight metres – a miss that would prove costly.

Andreas Isaksson kept Sweden's lead intact with an acrobatic save from Skela on 64 minutes, but the midfield player was not to be denied three minutes later when he connected with Florian Myrtaj's cross from the right. And the game was turned on its head seven minutes later when Aliaj curled a free-kick four metres outside the area over the Sweden wall and in.

Sweden's resistance crumbled and the home side should have won by more, Tare missing a golden chance in the closing stages before Isaksson dived to save a penalty from Skela in added time.

Source: Uefa.com


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